Community SecondNets
IMLS Grant 
LG-95-18-0153-18
: Interim Final Report Narrative 2/10/21


Community SecondNets

“Libraries partnering with schools, clinics, colleges and other anchor institutions, as second responders, install dual use, wide area wireless networks, creating redundant communications capability to expand inclusion and strengthen community resilience against disasters.” 

- and in pandemic response though support of new "neighborhood library access stations" to help alleviate the resulting connectivity crisis.

Introduction:

Like nearly every grant, project and enterprise, public or private, foreign and domestic, the Community SecondNets initiative has had to shift gears in response to the global pandemic. But not that much. Already oriented as Libraries in Response to large scale crisis events, the Project has been able to pivot in active support of library readiness policies and new response resources.

Triggering near universal closures of schools, libraries, most businesses and public offices, the novel coronavirus has caused the preexisting trends towards a rapidly increasing virtualization of the economy and society at large, to accelerate. 

As demand for library digital content has jumped, the wider need for internet access inclusion has gone from a national embarrassment to become a full blown connectivity crisis. 10’s of millions of people in the US have suddenly found themselves in even more deeply lacking in access to the digital resources most Americans take for granted.  

Community SecondNets were originally developed to serve as backup networks in response to connectivity needs during large scale disaster events like fires, floods and hurricanes. The Project was already designed to encourage libraries to extend a crucial library resource, access to digital services including the open internet, into public spaces across communities as new neighborhood kiosk outlets. 

In the context of the Covid-19 emergency, any new point of library services access should be understood as responsive to urgent community learning and information needs. To date, the Project and its partner organizations have set up or otherwise supported 100’s of new library access stations or points of presence. 

“Broadband access is critical to the health, safety, education and economic well-being of communities. Public Access is proven to be an economical and equitable way to connect every community, declares the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), the Internet Society, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), The Web Foundation and others as the Partnership for Public Access. (P4PA.net)

The Project has continued its focus on resilience through expanding library networks to better serve those in even greater need and especially without other sources of access. Providing simple connectivity in more public places can meet at least some of these urgent demands for access to critical information.

Project was able to generate far more connectivity projects than anticipated due to our success in finding outside funding and from receiving sub award proposals that were able to leverage other projects or existing infrastructures. Or as in the case of contractor Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (TDRC.org), Project was able to collaborate in design of services and promote them to libraries and other anchors around the US.(see below)

The biggest variance in the Project plan resulted from our two university lab partnerships going cold due to lockdowns. 75% of those budgeted funds have been redirected to projects or are still available to support new innovation efforts. 

The following details results of planned Project outcomes as well as adjustments made in response to the global crisis of Covid-19. 


Goals of Community SecondNets Initiative:

1) Increased Resilience - System Autonomy and portability

2) Community partnerships (especially with k-12 and higher ed)

3) Beyond TV Whitespace with other wireless tech

4) Developing project analysis process & tools

  • start-up guide/course
  • project  template
  • national database of TVWS channels for each library

5) Summary update of US libraries in crisis response 

6) Develop additional funding and support resources

7) Normalize concept of libraries as: 

  • “Second Responders” 
  • Provides of new neighborhood outlets as “Community Access Stations”

Eight (8) of the ten (10) sub-projects have presented their projects on the GLN zoom sessions: “What is a Library if the Building is Closed?” These are recorded and linked to each sub-project. Reports from each sub-project are also linked as are the reports from Project contractors with extracts as part of this summary report.


Sub-awarded projects:

Existing project upgrades:

  • Millinocket, ME 
  • Beatrice, NE
  • State College, PA
  • Milledgeville, GA 

New projects:

  • Plymouth, NE 
  • Ohoopee, GA 
  • Pottsboro, TX  
  • Castleberry, TX
  • Douglas, AZ
  • Saline, MI 


Summary update - Goals of Community SecondNets:


1) Increased Resilience - System Autonomy and Portability

System Autonomy - The ability for a wireless network to operate as an ad hoc IP network would be an extraordinary resource against prolonged outage of either electric or even the internet. This aspect of the Project was being led by the Penn State U. partnership with the Schlow Public Library. When the university closed this task became unworkable.

Portability - This aspect of the Project was intended to develop movable fixed remote access stations, designed for rapid redeployment in response to damaging disasters where areas are cut off or otherwise in urgent need of connectivity. Such a resource has been proven to be of very high value in the early hours after a crisis has hit. The first prototype of such a unit was created by the Millinocket, ME Library team and actually put to use, not in disaster response but in support of the connectivity needs of a cultural event, a marathon race. This was an unexpected benefit of portable remote stations. ITDRC is now developing the next iteration of a portable unit. (see specs in Millinocket report)


2) Community partnerships (especially with k-12 and higher ed)

Project’s most prominent k-12 sub-project is in Nebraska where the schools all have high performance gig fiber. In a new sub-project a well connected school used 5GHz wireless to reach a water tower 4 miles away that then distributed the signal to four library locations in the small (pop 400) town of Plymouth, NE where poor BB infrastructure disadvantaged 46 k-12 students. This partnership had zero additional bandwidth costs, only equipment which was under $20k for entire project. Other examples include: 

Castleberry ISD school library in partnership with local public library to support 3 new public access stations supporting high priority communities for $7,500.

Pottsboro Library working with local wireless ISP to negotiate low rate($10/mo) to support 3 “neighborhood access stations” for under $5k total.

Most sub-projects have also created or expanded relations with area Emergency Mgt. Agencies(EMA’s) to reinforce their roles in disaster response and recovery.

Higher Ed partnerships, planned as labs with WMU & Penn State U. were unable to complete due to facility closures.


3) Beyond TV Whitespace with other wireless tech

TV Whitespace spectrum formed the basis for GLN’s original Beyond the Walls grant and also underpinned the Community SecondNets proposal. It became apparent early in the Project that every community could benefit from having a backup redundant wide area wireless capability. But since TVWS is not available in every community nor even optimal in many locations, the Project expanded to include other wireless technologies to accommodate local circumstances. Thus moving the Project from one leading with a technology to one that leads with a presumed benefit concept that will be best served through careful local analysis of area spectrum environment to design an optimal SecondNets system.

The four existing libraries already using TVWS were able to enhance functionality and resilience. Two new projects in Douglas, AZ and Ohoopee, GA have installed or are in process of setting up new TVWS systems.

One new sub-project in Plymouth, NE utilized fiber backhaul to a school 4 miles away who could then extend a 400Mbps line-of-sight connection using 5GHz to the Plymouth water tower where the signal was then distributed to the local library and 3 neighborhood library access stations. This project is especially significant as it embodies a common circumstance and need. Circumstance is that most, even rural k-12 facilities are now well wired with gigabit fiber, yet most rural libraries have poor connectivity reflecting a weak local BB infrastructure and other budgetary constraints. Yet the prospects for area schools to share bandwidth via wireless or other connectivity technologies create opportunities for joint support of urgent community learning and information needs. Support for the success of this approach has been made possible by a regional brach of Network Nebraska, the state high performance education network. The sub-project warrants deeper analysis for replicability nationally.

Two other new sub-projects supporting expanded library access utilized Citizen’s Band Radio Spectrum (CBRS) in Castleberry, TX ISD and in Saline District Library, MI.

One sub-project used Educational Broadband Services (EBS) spectrum to support Pottsboro, TX library.

These variances from using TVWS demonstrate the need to allow specific technologies to follow, not precede, a local analysis of public open spectrum resources and/or licensed services or resources to generate the most effective and economical connectivity solution.


4) Developing project analysis process & tools

A new Community SecondNets Resource page has been created to provide:

  • A public report on the Project, including case studies with written reports as well as recorded video reports. 
  • A start-up guide/course (description and link)
  • National database of TVWS channels for each library with 9 or more open channels. Available on request. Write to info [at] giglibraries.net  Subject: TVWS 


5) Summary update of US libraries in crisis response 

See: Libraries and Crisis: Second Responders but First Line of Defense (link pending)


6) Develop additional funding and support resources

Project was able to secure additional funding support for:

  • Ohoopee, GA Library from the DC Chapter of the Internet Society
  • Douglas, AZ Library from the AZ State Library.


7) Normalize concept of libraries as: 

“Second Responders” 

Since the inception of the Project libraries are increasingly being referred to as “Second Responders”, as an unique category of responder, increasingly understood to play a vital if secondary role in disaster response. Even a first line of support in emergency conditions ranging from regional (even global) disasters to very personal individual crises. 

When Libraries Are 'Second Responders’ - from the Atlantic

Comments by FFC Commissioner Starks to SHLB Conf.


Demonstrates value of outlets as “Neighborhood Library Access Stations”

While it is commonsensical that increased convenience to library digital services should be of value in any community, the SecondNets Project has made strides in not only providing supporting evidence of this truism, it has also shown the benefit can be achieved at low cost to serve the needs of the 80,000,000 people who, prior to the pandemic, have relied entirely or in part on this public asset. 

The greatest barrier to wide scale adoption has been the ambiguity of policy in the federal e-rate program on whether these outlets are eligible for discount or even allowed. Project has attempted to both make a case that these outlets should be deemed physical library properties and therefore eligible or that their cost is potentially so low as to justify unsubsidized use. The current global health crisis that is Covid-19 has shown to also be a connectivity crisis where access to communication and to public information and services is essential. 

This report closes with an anecdote from one family trying to cope with almost impossible circumstances. And one where a SecondNet project made a difference.

“I heard a story of the poster child for the importance of internet yesterday. I was really moved by her story: she talked about how access to the Internet was the difference between having her five boys miss a year of school and having those same boys thrive. 

Three of her sons have a variety of challenges - ADHD, stutter, autism, and dyslexia. They've always been well-behaved when they visit the library. The family has one car that the father has to take to work M-F. They do not have internet (it isn't available) or a computer. Because of Covid, it is unlikely the sons will be able to go to school. 

The boys need specialized education that she doesn't feel equipped to provide.. She doesn't have use of a car to get them to the Dr. during the week unless it is an emergency and her husband misses work. Oh, she earned her GED 3 years ago and needs job skills. How will a family like that ever get out of the hole they are in?? A neighborhood access station would be a great start. The library could find a computer to give her.

Oh, my.”

- Dianne Connery, Pottsboro, TX Library Director




Non-project Contracts:


ITDRC testing and consulting
While community facilities were closed, Internet connections sat unutilized, trapped inside the buildings. If only the connections could be extended outside, people could work safely from their vehicles in parking lots, at picnic tables, and in green spaces.

It didn't take long before hundreds of libraries across the country came together with Gigabit Libraries Network and ITDRC to seek solutions to connect their communities. 

As of this update, ITDRC has installed hundreds of library "HomeworkHotspots" across the US with hundreds more in the pipeline. Citizens fortunate enough to live close to a hotspot have adapted to the new normal, while many others have been left behind. We were able to receive the first version prototype SecondNets kit for portable use in disaster response or simply to support community events. We’re now making adjustments to the design and expect a v. 2 to be available in June of this year.

ITDRC


Professor Sharon Strover, UTA

Libraries and Crisis: Second Responders but First Line of Defense

“Libraries, one of the central institutions in small as well as large communities, had significant, often ‘unsung’ roles whether facing hurricanes, fires, flooding or Covid-19. Our research documents the libraries’ responses in these difficult times and finds that certain actions enable them to be “ready” for disaster and to contribute to their communities’ resiliency. 

In this they constitute a type of first line of defense for their communities. Their local information role underscores the significance of projects such as Community SecondNets, the IMLS-funded project developing extended Internet capabilities useful for libraries facing disaster circumstances. First, libraries’ roles in communities go well beyond loaning books, the somewhat dated image of libraries’ primary purpose. Libraries are information first responders, providing physical and intellectual places for safety and local support and repair in communities in times of crisis. 

A core service of libraries is Internet connectivity and assistance: library-based computers, internal WiFi, and Internet connectivity are heavily used among patrons, and that use escalates after a disaster.

Libraries and Crises: Revision


Professor Kristen Rebmann, SJSU

Updated course/ start up guide completed:

https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/1809489

Welcome to the Community "SecondNets" Quick Start Guide! Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, this course provides a professional development opportunity for library professionals to learn about the applications of Community SecondNets technology, design, and deployment. Find out how you can implement SecondNets in your library and use them to collaborate with community anchor institutions to advance access, inclusion, and crisis planning.

The Basics: This is an online-only class using Canvas with video recordings in Zoom. The course contains 3 modules:

  1. Module #1 - What are SecondNets? Background to the technology.
  2. Module #2 - SecondNets for everyday and crisis internet access.
  3. Module #3 - Develop your own plan for a SecondNet @ your library. 

The course is ongoing and periodically holds live, synchronous sessions. We will send more information about live sessions as their dates approach. Attendance at live Collaborate sessions is NOT mandatory; recordings will be available.


Existing Projects Upgrades:

Four library sites already running TVWS systems were awarded additional $10,000 sub-awards to increase the resilience of this networks and thereby increase the libraries contributions to greater community resilience against disasters, outages and other crises.


Millinocket, ME 

Video report (starts at 11:07)

Our project lead was able to build a prototype mobile unit that we used to support communication efforts for the Millinocket Marathon, a grassroots, fundraiser marathon in the middle of December in northern Maine. Media partners used the network to support their communication needs during coverage of the event, and we were pleased to see the prototype work.

The success portable prototype was shipped to the Information Technology Resource Center (ITDRC.org) in Texas for evaluation and further refinements. Although the original purpose was to be a new crisis readiness resource, it turned out to have considerable value in support of civic events and cultural activities in Millinocket.

It is challenging in rural communities that are lacking funds, staff, and skills, to try to innovate with similarly under-resourced partners. At one point, we had exactly the right combination of volunteers and funding, but once those volunteers left, we were left unable to continue to build off of their work. Further,being in a very isolated location, we were limited in partners and resources. Additionally, when COVID hit, work across the region was reprioritized and we struggled to focus on anything but immediate challenges. 

Millinocket, ME - Report


State College, PA

Video report (starts at 5:10)

“The library is now both seen as a leader in the state on new network initiatives, and placed at the center of community conversations surrounding access and connectivity, and without this project, that would not have been possible. Covid has only increased the need for these efforts to continue, and the library is well positioned to advocate for equal access for all our citizens.”

A lasting result of the project is the strength of partnership between these key agencies. The library is now both seen as a leader in the state on new network initiatives, and placed at the center of community conversations surrounding access and connectivity, and without this project, that would not have been possible. Covid has only increased the need for these efforts to continue, and the library is well positioned to advocate for equal access for all our citizens.

State College, PA - Schlow SecondNets Preliminary: Final Report


Milledgeville, GA

Video report (starts at 36:50)

Our program has been cited by the State Librarian of Georgia several times in regards to services that libraries have offered during the pandemic, and has inspired a grant program open to Georgia public libraries for TVWS technology. Our implementation of it was also cited when I was awarded the 2019 Georgia Public Librarian of the Year.

Our plans for a mobile TVWS, to be put into operation in 2020, were derailed by COVID-19 and recommendations from the CDC to avoid interaction with public devices. Our original plan calls for a modified phone booth, which would leverage funding from another grant aimed at public participation, but would also provide a functional example of a mobile TVWS hotspot for our community.

Milledgeville, GA


Beatrice, NE 

Video report

Using out existing TVWS base station located at ESU 5 we plan to create a TVWS link the Fairgrounds where a reunification location exists. This connection will allow for individuals and families to get online and check in with others during an emergency or disaster event. This location will also serve the Emergency Management team during the Fair when they are located on site to demonstrate the capabilities of their mobile trailer units. 

Aside from a fixed connection we also plan to build 2 mobile units that can be transported and set up for disaster training and deployed in an actual disaster recovery situation. Our systems will consist of a TVWS radio mounted in a hard carrying case, a WiFi radio, battery, solar panel, solar charge controller, and extending tower for the antenna. 

Many recovery trainings and events happen throughout the year where this system can be deployed and users can get comfortable with setting things up to use the equipment to its full potential. This system will give our local responders another option in the event that mobile communications need to be brought up quickly and could help save lives. 

Beatrice, NE - 2ndNets Update


Huron, SD

Video report (starts at 20:34)

Huron was an early adopter of  a TVWS technology and though not a formal participant in the Project, did however use the technology in response to the pandemic by moving a remote access station to provide connectivity support for an early Covid testing station and has begun to work closely with the area EMA.


Labs:

These efforts experienced the greatest impact from Covid-19 pandemic. Envisioned and agreed as research partnerships with two universities, WMU & Penn State, each suffered from institutional closure. Funds have been redirected toward exploration of alternate wireless technologies including: Educational Broadband Services (EBS) spectrum (2.5GHz); Citizen’s Band Radio Service (CRBS) spectrum (3.5GHz);

Michigan (Merit Networks)

Video report (pending)

WMU test lab

Western Michigan University was originally one of two university partnerships whose role was to lead in the development of offline operation of library wireless networks that would function even in cases of outages, whether from power or even internet loss. Due the the pandemic both universities closed and this aspect of the project has been postponed. Project now planning redeployment of equipment.


Saline District, MI Library

R&E Network partnership using CBRS wireless

The Merit Community Access Initiative (CAN) – Drive-up community Internet access zones: A Library Site Location at the Saline District Library to Promote Community Resilience and Information Access 

Improving Connectivity & Resilience in Michigan’s Underserved Communities

Wi-Fi Access Expanded for Citizens through 50 Public Access Sites across Michigan

The Michigan Moonshot, is a collective call to action which aims to bridge the digital divide in Michigan. Through the Michigan Moonshot initiative Merit has partnered with corporate and community organizations to expand the Wi-Fi access of over 50 community organization sites. In this unique public private partnership Merit will pilot a Community Network Access (CAN) concept, in Detroit, Flint and Washtenaw County communities.

Saline District, MI - CAN Proposal Final 2020


New Projects: 

Plymouth, NE 

Video report (starts at 15:50)

School - Library Collaboration For Community Learning and Information Systems with long range 5GHz

As 2020 started out fairly normal, things changed quickly when COVID-19 presented challenges that required unique solutions.  The town of Plymouth, Nebraska sits in a rural area roughly 4 miles from its school district of Tri-County Public Schools.  Though the school district has Gigabit fiber connectivity, the town has poor broadband and cellular connectivity.  This “homework gap” became even more apparent when online home learning became the alternative method of learning for students.  

Through collaboration and funding from the Second Nets round of awards we were able to bring up a Point to Point network from Tri-County Public School to the town of Plymouth where the connection could be distributed through the Plymouth Public Library.  Using carrier grade 5GHz radios we were able to achieve 300Mbps Full Duplex to a Grain Bin site in Plymouth that had line of sight with the school.  From there we were able to bring up another line of sight connection to the Library where we then branched off to 3 additional sites in town for student and Library patron WiFi access. By working together quickly we were able to bring up this system in under a month's time and have things operational by the beginning of May 2020.

Plymouth, NE - Report


Ohoopee, GA 

The Ohoopee Regional Library TVWS System 

Is in the process of implementing TV White Space in our community. At this time, we are only lacking the equipment for the TV White Space base stations as the equipment is on backorder. We are initially putting out 3 base stations in our city but hope to add 3 more in the next 2 years. As we enter our planning phase with our installer, we were informed of 2 interesting features that cities in other states are using. One is installing a solar panel with each base station so that in the event of a power outage, internet would still be available in that area. The second feature is making our stations portable, so that we would easily move our stations in the event of a natural disaster or some other event that would require our stations to be deployed within a 5-mile radius of our library.  We are asking for $7500 to assist us with the goal of adding solar power to our 3 base stations.  We are also hoping to make at least one of our base stations, if not all portable so that the stations could be moved as need in other areas arise.

Ohoopee, GA - Grant Request


Pottsboro, TX  

Video report (starts at 45:12)
Three neighborhood Internet Access Stations using Educational Broadband Services Spectrum

To help address the gap in last mile Internet connectivity in Pottsboro, TX, funding is requested to install 3 neighborhood Internet access stations. These will be located in public spaces close to neighborhoods with limited connectivity and/or emergency services. Using maps provided by the Pottsboro Independent School District that identified students without broadband access at home and collaboration with Lorie Lefevers, the president of the board of directors of the Preston Volunteer Emergency Services, the following locations were chosen:

  • Pottsboro Volunteer Emergency Services (PVES) 
  • Preston Center Convenience Store 
  • Pottsboro Volunteer Emergency Services- Cambridge Shores Fire Station (PVES) 

The two project managers are JJ McGrath of Tekwav (WISP) and Dianne Connery of the Pottsboro Area Public Library.   Login statistics will be collected.

Pottsboro, TX - Neighborhood Access Stations Request


Castleberry, TX

Video report (starts at 32:57)

Three neighborhood Access Stations using CBRS in partnership with local ISD

Install at least one wireless access point inside or outside of each of the three Neighborhood Access Stations.

● Invite the community to connect to Guest WIFI.

○ Each time, community will receive a policy screen in English/Spanish to read and accept the “I Agree” statement which will include information about Safety, reminders about district AUP, and library/internet risks.

○ Free, filtered, wireless internet option for the community

■ The ease of access will allow for a barrier free program

■ There will be no printing available from any mobile devices and

community members will select "I Agree" to begin all sessions

■ Laptop computer, PDA, or other devices with wireless network interface

card and charged battery will allow for connection.

  • No outside electrical outlets will be provided.

Castleberry, TX - ISD


Douglas, AZ
TVWS System

Douglas, AZ, located on the Mexican border is an ideal location for the library to set up a wide area wireless network. A 3-client TVWS system was acquired through a grant from the state library. While the connectivity accomplished was satisfactory, a problem arose due to a lack of a security feature in the Adaptrum TVWS equipment that the city required before opening access to the public. Adaptrum resolved the issue by upgrading the internal firmware of the network. 

A SecondNets award was offered to the library to enable power backup and/or portability of at least one client station. Due to the added difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the city, who provides IT services for the library, has been unable to find time to install additional equipment and does not anticipate being able to complete the original plan this year.



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