What's Hot!

Comcast offers Internet Essentials to Seattle seniors

Low-income seniors (62+ years old) now qualify for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.  Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers cable home internet with speeds up to 10 Mbps for $9.95 (plus tax) per month.  Qualified recipients will receive a modem, wireless router and home installation for free with no credit check.  You cannot currently be a Comcast internet customer (must be off of Comcast internet for 90 days) and you must not have any recent Comcast debt under one year old.  Low income seniors in Seattle who are on the Utility Discount Program with the City of Seattle qualify, in addition to other low-income programs.  Visit https://internetessentials.com/seniors or call 1-855-850-4550 to see if you qualify.

CenturyLink opens Seattle customer service center

Seattle residents now have a local place to visit to pay their bill, discuss account issues or test new CenturyLink cable products. On April 1, 2016, CenturyLink opened its Seattle customer service center/retail store in north Seattle, in the Greenwood area. The location has customer parking and is also accessible by Metro bus routes 5, 48, 82, 355 and 994.

The service center is located in ‘Piper Village’, 8528 Palatine Ave N, Seattle, 98103. It has a local phone number customers can call to talk with a local CenturyLink representative: (206) 789-1132. Service Center hours are:

Monday-Friday: 9:00 am – 7:00 p.m.

Saturday:  9:00 am – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: Closed

Note that CenturyLink does not accept equipment at their local centers, and is not able to exchange equipment, either. All equipment for CenturyLink customers is handled through mail service. Call them at (206) 789-1132 or (877) 837-5738.

If you’re a Seattle cable customer, be sure you know your rights under the City’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights. If you ever have an issue you can’t resolve with your cable operator, you can contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications for assistance at (206) 684-8498 or file an on-line request here: City Service Request Form: Cable Issue.

Lifeline program now includes discounted broadband

On March 31, 2016, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) approved rules to modernize the Lifeline program so subscribers will have the option to use it to buy discounted broadband. The Lifeline discounts will still be $9.25 per month and can apply to stand-alone broadband, bundled voice-broadband packages – either fixed or mobile – and stand-alone voice service.

What is Lifeline?

The Lifeline program was first created under President Reagan, and was designed to provide low-income Americans with financial assistance to purchase affordable phone service, so the most vulnerable Americans were connected to the rest of the country. In 2005, President George W. Bush expanded the program to include mobile phones. Now, in 2016, the use of the internet has become another vital way to communicate. The FCC therefore decided to it was time to modernize Lifeline and make sure that all Americans can access the broadband services they need. The Lifeline reforms would give the 12 million low-income households currently using the subsidy for phone service help paying their monthly broadband bill. And it has the potential to benefit millions more.

How Does Lifeline Work?

Lifeline provides a discount on service of $9.25 per month for eligible low-income subscribers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Subscribers may receive the Lifeline discount on either a wire line or a wireless service, but may not receive a discount on both services at the same time. Once the FCC’s new broadband rule is effective, Lifeline subscribers can select to use the discount toward broadband or broadband-voice bundle instead.

Who is Eligible?

To participate in the Lifeline program, subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs. You can see if you are eligible with the Lifeline Eligibility Pre-Screening Tool on the Universal Service Administrative website at www.lifelinesupport.org.

Following is a list of assistance programs that qualify a participant for Lifeline:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

NOTE: These programs will change when the new rules become effective.

Can I start using Lifeline for discounted broadband right away?

No, the FCC’s rule approval triggers some additional steps that are needed before the program change will be effective and subscribers are able to use Lifeline for broadband. The FCC’s rule must first be published in the Federal Register and then approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The program administration will then need to be updated to reflect the new broadband options. These additional steps may take several months.  If you’re interested in using Lifeline for broadband, visit the website lifelinesupport.org for more information as program updates are made.

How can I apply for Lifeline support?

Apply for Lifeline through a Lifeline Program provider in your state or designated state agency. To locate a Lifeline provider in your state, go to lifelinesupport.org.

Help us design the new Seattle IT website

As part of creating the new department we are updating and consolidating our existing external web presence to better serve the public. This includes our Department of Information Technology, Community Technology, Broadband, Legislation and Policies, Tech Talk, and Office of Cable Communications sites.  We need your help envisioning the new site. Please take a short survey to help us understand how our current sites are used, and to share your ideas for the new site. Follow this link to take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SEADOIT16

City launches new Seattle.gov

The City of Seattle recently launched our redesigned website, http://seattle.gov/, to better connect the public with their government.

The new website is based on a mobile-friendly design approach and a desire to help visitors find information easily. The new website strives to be user-centric, organizing content primarily by City services instead of City departments.

City staff is designing and building the new Seattle.gov over a three-year period, with all City pages updated in phased releases. The initial launch release included the following:

  • New format and layout on:
  • Debut of a new Seattle.gov service: a one-stop-site of news generated by City departments and elected officials
  • New global headers and footers throughout the site
  • Responsive mobile navigation

The design of the entire City website will be completed in 2018.

Cable Set Top Boxes

We wanted to alert readers to two important developments related to cable and satellite set top boxes.

The Cable Office received notice from Comcast that beginning on April 1, 2016 some customers will need to exchange their set top boxes in order to continue receiving all of their HD channels.  This action is required because Comcast is implementing a new standard for video compression. Specifically, they are moving from what is called MPEG2 to MPEG4 compression (MPEG is an acronym for Moving Pictures Expert Group). Digital video delivered to subscribers is compressed, otherwise it would consume very large amounts of bandwidth. Some set top boxes will be unable to process MPEG4 signals.  Comcast is now informing its customers through letters and messages to customer set top boxes.  There will be no cost for exchanging the set top boxes.

Comcast states that they will provide customers with the instructions on how to replace their set top boxes:

  • Customers should tune to channel 1995 on each of their set top boxes and follow the onscreen instructions to see if it needs to be replaced.
  • If the set top box needs replacement customers can order a Self-Installation Kit from their TV, online or they can visit a Comcast service center.

For more information customers should call Comcast at 1-800-XFINITY or the Cable Office hotline at 206-684-8498.

In a related matter, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Expanding Consumers’ Video Navigation Choices.” If implemented, the new rules would bring much needed competition to the cable set top box market and allow consumers to purchase their own devices for navigating video channels instead of having to rent a set top box from their cable operator or satellite provider.  Among other things the rules would require cable, phone and satellite companies to provide other manufacturers of set top boxes with video content, channel guides and on demand content.  In effect, the rules would allow Seattle pay TV subscribers to obtain Comcast, Wave or satellite TV content over a Roku, Apple TV, Xbox or other similar devices.

The Cable Office supports this action by the FCC. Currently about 99% of subscribers rent a set top box from their cable or satellite company. Set top box rental fees continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation even as the costs of all other consumer electronics have declined in conformance with Moore’s Law.  The FCC is currently in the public comment period. A vote on any new rules will likely not occur until late this year. Stay tuned.

CTO represents Seattle at Consumer Electronics Show

mattAs part of Mayor Murray’s commitment to data-driven transparent government, Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller presented at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Michael detailed Seattle’s role as a Smart City as part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s SuperSession on partnerships in government technology innovation.

The session was hosted by US CTO Megan Smith. In his talk, Michael focused on the Seattle 2030 District, Seattle Public Utilities Rainwatch program, MetroLab Network, Open Data, and Hack the Commute.

Watch the video. (Seattle starts at minute 45.)

Read the White House blog post.

Digital Adoption case studies available

A series of digital adoption case studies produced by Mobile Citizen and the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) are now available on NTEN’s website.

Earlier this year, the two organizations collaborated on the 2015 Digital Adoption Report, a joint research project to explore how online services and internet access help nonprofits deliver services and programs, as well as connect with their constituents. As part of the project, four case studies were published, all of which may be found here.

The 2015 Digital Adoption Report provides benchmarks and qualitative data about online technology and digital inclusion efforts among nonprofits and the communities that they serve. Read more and download a copy of the report.

Youth build skills and a voice

Stories of families arriving in Seattle need to be heard from the families themselves. Bilen is a youth blogger with the PugetSoundOff.org, a  site and project run by the YMCA. She’s writing and speaking up about her experiences coming to the United States. Her messages, along with others blogging, are about respecting culture.

Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller, Joel Farris from the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation, and David Keyes of the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Community Technology Program, dropped by recently to hear from Bilen and other youth in the program. It led to a rich discussion about tech jobs, digital equity efforts, and technology and policy in Seattle. In discussing the upcoming Seattle.gov web redesign, students shared their real world experience helping family members find and translate online info into English. They shared some of their posts and plans.

Funding from DoIT and grants from others, including the Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Arts and Culture, has supported training, the online platform, and most importantly, opportunity for youth voice.  These include videos like “How Technology is Changing Seattle,” and “Here,” perspectives on what it’s like to be LGBTQ in high school, produced by the Chief Sealth International High School’s Gay Straight Alliance with the support of PugetSoundOff.org staff.

The City of Seattle DoIT funding in 2015 enabled digital literacy skills training for 174 teens, including 26 digital media internships. Project Director Kate Schneier explained that building self-confidence and civic voices goes hand-in-hand with development of their technology skills. Students learn to write blogs and take pictures that illustrate their messages. Video production training offers another outlet for creativity and message making. Through this, they practice articulating their points of view, talking to others about it, and learning to be more comfortable asking questions of others and discussing different views.  A milestone for them last year was working with other groups to host a Youth City Council Candidates’ Forum.

Their efforts also pay off in stars, or credits, they can earn from different writing and tech skill building activities. Rewards are offered along the way and enough stars earn students their own computer.

One project for this year is a photo narrative project to counter negative impressions of South Seattle with the positive stories of this very diverse community of interesting and caring residents.  Stay tuned to PugetSoundOff.org and follow #seayouth to learn more and engage with the powerful voices of Seattle youth. For more information about the program, you can also contact Kate Schneier at KSchneier@seattleymca.org or 206-549-3055.

Creative Coding for Kids

Local nonprofit Creative Coding for Kids was recently featured in a segment on KING5 news about their four day coding camp over the holiday break. The camp makes learning the skill of coding fun by teaching the children how to make their own video games.

The coding camp puts great emphasis on hosting an equal mix of boys and girls. “It’s really important to teach them young before society puts too many pressures upon them and imposes these gender roles,” according to Eric Fredrickson, founder of Creative Coding for Kids. “The important thing is if you’re a young kid and you have established your relationship with technology at a young age then you feel empowered in a way that you wouldn’t if you didn’t know how to code.”

The camp wouldn’t be possible without former IBM computer programmer Katherine Hitchcock sponsoring the cost of teachers. “Knowing that you can do it and knowing at an early age that you can do it and you’re not afraid of it is, I think really important,” says Hitchcock. Hitchcock knows just how important it is to encourage girls to take action in this male dominated field.

To help the students along the way on their path to code, local nonprofit InterConnection has generously provided a laptop for each student to keep. InterConnection works tirelessly to provide equal access to technology in the community and beyond. InterConnection partners with nonprofits to bring technology to disadvantaged youth and underserved communities around Seattle. Thanks to computer donations from corporations and people like you, InterConnection is able to provide affordable access to technology to those who need it most.

How Do I Help?

Ring in the new year with a good deed and donate your old electronics to InterConnection. For more information visit www.interconnection.org/donate .