In the News

Farewell Brainstorm, welcome SeattleIT

This is our final edition of Brainstorm and start of changes to the Community Technology Program. We will still be sharing digital equity and city resources, success stories and events, but in a different form and more timely manner. This week, the City launched the new SeattleIT department and a new web site to go with it. Seattle.gov/tech is now the new department site and a new presentation of our services. We are retooling our web content and communications to integrate with our new web site design and channels. Community Technology is also becoming Digital Equity as we “modernize” our language and program focus.

We have been publishing Brainstorm monthly for 15 years, updating all on community technology issues. We’re proud to have been able to collect and deliver a treasure chest of community info, tech tips, learning resources and more. Our deep thanks to D.H. Cass Magnuski, who has been our Brainstorm editor and designer.

New tech advisors appointed

Chris Alejano, Heather Lewis, and Mark DeLoura have been named to Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB). Joneil Sampana was also re-appointed to a second two-year term.

The 10-member board, appointed by the Mayor and City Council, helps guide City strategies and investments in information and communications technology.  They advise Seattle’s information technology department, the Mayor and Council on a range of issues, including broadband, digital equity, mobile and web based services for Seattle.gov, privacy and technology, social media, open data, online public engagement, the Seattle Channel, and cable TV franchise agreements. Board members make recommendations for the Technology Matching Fund grants.  

 

ChrisChristopher Alejano has served as the Director of Education for the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) since 2009, enabling technology education for youth of color. He manages support for their Academy, STEM by TAFTeacher Institute and School Transformation, and Martinez Fellowship. Christopher previously served as a higher education policy adviser in Governor Gregoire’s administration and as a research analyst for the Washington State House of Representatives Early Learning and Children Services Committee, after years working as a kindergarten teacher.

 

Heather LewisHeather Lewis currently serves as the vice-chair of CTAB’s E-government Committee. She works as an Innovation Officer at CoMotion at the University of Washington, and was also a co-founder of Biokick. Heather worked on white papers on cryptocurrencies, and municipal fiber at the UW Law School Technology Law and Public Policy Clinic. She has volunteer experience with the YWCA as a Board Fellow and in assisting with education at the Refugee Women’s Alliance (REWA). She is also a committee member at Social Venture Partners.

 

Mark DeLouraMark DeLoura recently moved back to Seattle after two years as Senior Adviser for Digital Media in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he focused on computer science education, diversity in the tech industry, and utilizing games for education. This included work on Code for America-style initiatives, hackathons and game jams. He is a  UW Computer Science graduate, and subsequently spent more than 20 years building technology in the game industry, starting as a software engineer and growing to lead about 300 engineers across 10 locations worldwide.

 

joneil custodioJoneil Sampana is currently the Chair of the E-government Committee and past Vice-Chair of CTAB. He led the development of the Washington State Data Visualization Internship Program, a partnership with State of Washington Office of CIO, WTIA, Microsoft, Socrata, Tableau, and four universities. Joneil is a resident of southeast Seattle (District 2) and a Business Program Manager at Microsoft.

Digital Equity Action plan launched

On March 30, Seattle’s new Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan was launched by Mayor Murray and 100 others, gathered at Yesler Community Center. The Plan provides steps forward for the City to provide equitable technology opportunities for all Seattle residents and communities through greater internet connectivity, skills training, and devices and technical support. Google also announced grants totaling $344,000 to provide greater wifi in the community centers, computers for learning labs, and help for 400 families in public housing to obtain internet connections as part of the City’s ConnectHome broadband adoption program.

A video of the event is available on the Seattle Channel.

“Seattle is a city known for its technology and innovation, yet too many residents do not have sufficient internet access, a high-quality device or the skills necessary to participate fully in our high-tech economy and community,” said Murray. “Working together, we can make Seattle a leader in ensuring digital equity and opportunity for all of our residents.”

Thanks to Hassan Wardere of Horn of Africa Services, Mama Fadumo from Yesler and Big Brain Super Heroes, Rosanna Stephens from Seattle Goodwill, Charles Brennick of Interconnection, Darcy Nothnagle from Google, and Kyle McSlarrow of Comcast for helping launch the plan and sharing how critical this digital inclusion work is.

The Digital Equity Initiative was launched in response to the City’s quadrennial Technology Indicators Report, released in May 2014. The Report found significant disparities in internet access and digital literacy skills for those of lower education, low-incomes, seniors, disabled, minorities, and immigrants. The Initiative is one part of the Mayor’s broadband strategy to increase access, affordability, and public-private-community partnerships. It seeks to ensure all residents and neighborhoods have the information technology capacity needed for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

The City is investing $1.6 million on the Initiative this year through a combination of City staff time, financial investments, and community partnerships, the focus on the three prongs of the Action Plan: devices and technical support, skills training, and connectivity.

Both Google and Comcast pledged their support at the launch event. Through their partnership in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ConnectHome program, Comcast is expanding the eligibility criteria for their discounted internet service nationwide, called Internet Essentials, to all public housing residents, opening eligibility up to over 4,900 Seattle households. They have also begun offering Internet Essentials to low-income seniors in Seattle.

Google’s pledge of $344,000 will support wifi access at 26 Seattle Parks’ community centers, 31 computers for their technology learning labs, and a grant to provide three years of internet service for 800 low-income students residing in Seattle Housing Authority facilities. These investments are based on the specific areas identified during the research phase of the Digital Equity Initiative.

“With these grants, we hope to increase Internet access for those who need it most, whether to do their homework, connect with loved ones or to access important services,” said Darcy Nothnagle, head of external affairs for the NW at Google. “Google is thrilled that these grants will provide WiFi in all of the city’s community centers and equipment for their digital literacy labs, as well as home Internet access for very low income Seattle Housing Authority residents.”

“The Digital Equity Initiative Action Plan will be collaborative and data-driven,” added Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle. “We could not do this important work alone—we are grateful for the ongoing partnerships with businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, educational institutions, and volunteers. We will continue looking for additional partnerships to stretch the City investments.”

The City of Seattle announced the cycle and focus for their annual Technology Matching Fund awards. Applications are due Wednesday, May 4. Additional information can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/tech/tmf.

For more information on the Digital Equity Initiative, visit Seattle.gov/digital-equity.

 

Welcome, Jim Loter

Jim_LoterThe City of Seattle welcomed Jim Loter this past month as the Director of Digital Engagement.

“While technology can enable very effective ways for individuals and communities to interact with their government, and that’s especially true for historically underserved communities, we must also recognize and address the barriers that exist for some communities and individuals to use these powerful tools – lack of connectivity, skills, awareness, and support. I’m particularly excited to join the City as we implement our Digital Equity Initiative, which is designed to engage with the community to reduce those barriers,” said Jim of his new role.

“It’s an exciting time in that the City is taking huge leaps in making more data and information available to the public. I’m very interested in partnering with members of the tech community in finding new and innovative ways to put that data and information to good use and provide new opportunities for people to engage with the City, and vice-versa,” he added.

Jim was most recently the Director of Information Technology for The Seattle Public Library where he led the development of the Library’s Technology and Access strategy and was a founding member of the national Readers First coalition to improve access and availability of eBooks and other digital resources.

Jim has also led information technology strategy and operations at Seattle University, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, and the University of Iowa Libraries. His interests include developing and supporting technology-enabled solutions to achieve greater digital equity, educational outcomes, community engagement, and civic participation. Jim also periodically lectures in organizational management for the University of Washington Information School.

Jim has a Master’s degree in film studies from the University of Iowa focusing on Irish cinema, semiotics, narrative theory, and early cinema. He enjoys running, board games, baseball, poker, and is a competitive épée fencer.

The City’s Digital Engagement organization includes the Citywide Web Team, Seattle Channel, Community Technology, Open Data, and Cable and Broadband teams.

 

CenturyLink announces Prism TV price increases

CenturyLink announced that, effective March 18, 2016, the price of Prism TV video service will increase by $7.00. Except for customers who are on Prism ‘Price Lock,’ the increase is for all service packages and promotional offers. The new standard service rates will be:

Prism TV Package New Pricing
Basic $29.99
Essential $81.99
Complete $96.99
Preferred $111.99
Premium $141.99

The price of CenturyLink’s High Speed Internet modem will also be increased by $1.00.

If you are currently a CenturyLink Prism TV customer receiving a promotional discount on your service, but didn’t not sign up for ‘Price Lock’ when you subscribed, then your monthly service rate will increase by $7.00. But you will also continue to receive the discount applied to the new rate for the remainder of your promotional period. Your rate and any discount will be clearly indicated on your billing statements.

CenturyLink has sent customers a notice alerting them to these upcoming price increases. If you have questions on how this increase will impact your individual bill, contact CenturyLink Customer Care at (866) 755-7435.

If you are a low income CenturyLink customer and would like information on whether you are eligible for CenturyLink’s service discount programs, call (877) 837-5738 or visit CenturyLink Low Income Assistance Programs.

Seattle cable customers needing help resolving an issue with CenturyLink or other cable companies can contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications at (206) 684-8498 or submit a request through our on-line Cable Issue Service Request Form.

Digital NW Broadband Summit March 21

Join local and federal policymakers from across the Northwest region for a free Broadband Summit in Seattle on March 20-21, 2016, hosted by Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). At the Regional Summit, broadband leaders, including mayors, industry experts, and federal and municipal officials, will share successes and real-world impacts from next-generation broadband access.

The summit will feature panels on what works, success stories, increasing access, digital inclusion, rural broadband applications, innovation partnerships, broadband business models, and options for financing. There will also be an opening reception the evening of the 20.

See more information, presenters and registration link.

Mobile Citizen update

On January 29, Sprint and Mobile Citizen joined together to ask the court to extend a preliminary injunction that temporarily saved internet access for people on the WiMax network. The court approved it with a revised shutdown schedule for Seattle on February 29, 2016, as opposed to the original shutdown date of February 2.  This will allow them time to refine a plan with Sprint to offer Mobile Citizen’s users with a 30 GB+ 4G LTE data-only plan (with no throttling, suspension or overage charges after 30 GB). The plan does not include off-network roaming and it is subject to any standard network management that Sprint may apply to commercial broadband data-only account users.

What is happening?
EveryoneOn plans to disconnect its customers who get Internet access through Mobile Citizen on February 29, 2016.

How are you affected?
Mobile Citizen is working to find you alternative internet access. Their top priority has always been keeping you connected and will keep you updated as they review any options. Please check their blog (http://mobilecitizen.org/blog/) regularly.

Why can’t Mobile Citizen provide me with internet directly?
Mobile Citizen is not permitted to service individuals directly. They work with hundreds of nonprofits to ensure people in need around the nation have access to what has become an essential resource in the 21st Century.

Hamilton Carson RIP

hamcarsonSeattle lost a beloved clarinetist and computer lab teacher on January 14. Many knew him from his Dixieland and swing gigs at the New Orleans Restaurant in Pioneer Square where he played songs from the Great American Songbook.

A computer programmer, his music was a side passion. His was an active participant in local Democratic politics, was a gardener and spent time teaching seniors how to use computers at senior centers around Seattle.

Born January 10, 1930, Ham was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and had worked variously at Unisys, The LA Times, and US West. He is survived by his wife,  Margaret; sister, Joan Handy;  sons Timothy (Monika) and Tyler Carson, and daughters Vickie and Nell (Ben DeWitt) Carson, and adored grandchildren Ava Carson and Cole DeWitt.

He will be missed by all who knew him.

Public access sites get upgraded service

Through the City of Seattle’s agreements with the cable providers in our area, we are able to offer free Broadband Internet service to non-profits that provide technology classes or public computer usage to the City’s under-served residents.

Under the new agreement with Comcast, recipients in their service area will be providing second tier service, which means you should be receiving speeds up to 50 Mbps and be eligible for basic TV service.  If you are already a Comcast free internet recipient through our program, your speed and TV service will be coming soon.

For more information go to: http://www.seattle.gov/tech/cable

Comcast has recently upgraded or installed these sites:

  • Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS):  CHS provides access to residents and provides internet capability to help residents with online applications, employment searches, social media connecting individuals with families back home, and basic computer literacy skills in their computer lab.
  • Frederic Ozanam House:  Uses this free service to their residents to increase the availability of internet access, allowing for easier access to online resources residents use to secure housing, benefits, and other services without having to wait for assistance by one of the staff members.
  • Southeast Effective Development (SEED):  SEED is able to present residents with opportunities for career advancement and radio involvement, engage Seattle’s at-risk communities, empower individuals and families with practical technical and radio broadcast skills that they may use in differing professional, personal and civic contexts for many years to come. This project is also building the number of internet savvy volunteers who can segue into key roles at RVR.

Microsoft expands digital inclusion commitment

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced a new global effort by the company to address the technology divide and establishment of a new Microsoft Philanthropies group to achieve this. Corporate Vice-President Mary Snapp will be leading Microsoft Philanthropies, with Lori Forte Harnick, as chief operating officer. This new effort builds on 30-plus years of work by Microsoft to help close the digital divide. The new initiative support for digital inclusion programs and partnerships, using investments of cash and technology, the technical talents of employees, their commitment to creative and collaborative partnerships, and the reach and scale of Microsoft’s brand and voice.  Learn more on the Microsoft Blog.