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Zoom Doctors and Online Church: Staying Healthy, Safe, and Connected in Chattanooga — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 417
This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks to Deb Socia, President and CEO, and Geoff Millener, Senior Program and Operations Officer of The Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Deb and Geoff share the breadth and depth of the work they’ve been doing recently to advance digital inclusion efforts and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in ways that help the local community.
They tell Christopher about The Enterprise Center’s three-prong approach: the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative, which works to ensure that smart-city infrastructure is responsive to the needs of citizens; their work in the innovation district to help entrepreneurs build networks and create opportunities for getting access to capital; and finally, their Tech Goes Home initiative, which offers digital literacy courses and discounted hardware in pursuit of lowering the barriers to Internet access and inclusion.
Restaurants and churches around the country have been hit particularly hard by stay home orders and the other public health responses put into place to combat the transmission of the coronavirus, and Deb and Geoff describe the approach they’ve taken in Chattanooga. By finding trusted partners in local communities and leveraging their expertise and relationships with entities like EPB Fiber (the city’s municipal fiber network) Deb, Geoff, and their colleagues have helped small restaurant owners and church leaders get online and get the word out so that the local economy better weathers the storm and people can continue their faith traditions.
Finally, in this episode Christopher, Deb, and Geoff discuss the strides being taken in telehealth and telemental health in order to ensure more equitable opportunities and outcomes. They talk about the advantages to vulnerable populations, the potential savings to Medicare and Medicaid, and the wealth of opportunities for medical care related to aging in place, addiction recovery, palliative care, and removing the stigma of seeking mental health services.
See earlier coverage on The Enterprise Center and the work being done in Chattanooga by EPB Fiber.
This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Deb Socia: And so when we can give somebody a tablet or a computer and either help them sign up for low-cost access or provide them with a Wi-Fi hotspot, whatever it is, when we can do that, we can really have an impact.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Welcome to episode 417, the Community Broadband Bits podcast. This is Ry Marcattilio-McCracken here with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Today, Christopher talks with Deb Socia and Geoff Millener. Deb is the president and CEO of the Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And Geoff is the Senior Program and Operations Officer there. Christopher talks with Deb and Geoff about their work to help Chattanooga achieve digital inclusion by working with churches and other organizations to ensure people can continue their faith traditions. They discuss improving connections between people in the telehealth and telemental health services they need. A quick note, due to some recording difficulties in this episode, the audio quality is not up to our normal standards. We apologize and hope you enjoy. Now, here's Christopher talking with Deb Socia and Geoff Millener.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where we are all working from home still. Today, I'm returning with one of my favorite guests, my favorite people of all times, Deb Socia, who is now the president and CEO of the Enterprise Center and Enterprise and it could be called Enterprise in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Welcome to the show.
Deb Socia: Thanks Chris. Good to see you.
Christopher Mitchell: It is great to see you. And also we have Geoff Millener, who is an all right guy in his own right, the Senior Program and Operations Officer at the Enterprise Center. Welcome to the show, Geoff.
Geoff Millener: Thanks for having me, Chris. I was sure you were talking about me at the beginning, but I'll concede that to Deb.
Christopher Mitchell: Every time I see you, you grew up in my estimation. For people who aren't aware, Geoff was part of one of the best panels of all time with Deb and I who have performed many times over the years together, but never as much fun as when Geoff was on stage with us. And was that in Charlotte? Was that... It was NDIA Net Inclusion.
Geoff Millener: That was in Charlotte, yeah. That was a good time. That was an incredibly smart panel with me also there.
Christopher Mitchell: So let me start by asking, I believe we had Ken on from the Enterprise Center a while ago, but what is the Enterprise Center in Chattanooga? What's its role Deb?
Deb Socia: So we have really three distinct areas of work. One of them is convening and helping to manage the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with CO.LAB, with the city, with the county. It's a broad array of folks who are all working on ensuring that smart cities' infrastructure is responsive to the needs of the citizens. So it's a really awesome project. The second one is we work in the Innovation District. And in the Innovation District, a lot of our effort surrounds figuring out how to elevate opportunities, make connections, network, and really smooth the pathway for entrepreneurs in the innovation economy. And the third area is digital equity work. And we run the Tech Goes Home program and a variety of other projects that really help to connect people to technology, to training and to online home access.
Christopher Mitchell: Let me ask Geoff. So, a lot of the things that Deb just described there are pretty general, but tell me just specifically some of the things that you're involved in, in more specific details. Like what's the impact of some of the stuff you're doing?
Geoff Millener: Those three buckets seem like they're separate, but for us, it is such a unified strategy that these things overlap. When we're talking about smart cities, we're talking about digital equity. When we're talking about investing in new technologies, we're also talking about what entrepreneurs, what startups can participate in that ecosystem as well. So it's a unified kind of different distributed approach to economic development. And that does look like a lot of different things from public Wi-Fi. At the moment, we're working on standing up a really robust public Wi-Fi network, gig-backed over our downtown core and out into the county in response to COVID-19 making sure that there is some form of access readily accessible to folks who live here.
Geoff Millener: Deb mentioned Tech Goes Home and so there's a general framework for Tech Goes Home, 15 hours low cost device that we've subsidized and access to home Internet. But the way that program evolved here in Chattanooga to meet the needs of a specific small business class or families who have a child who's nonverbal. So they're learning accessible communication technologies, so that they can have more agency and control in their child's education. In our Innovation District, it's things like literally creating a stage for entrepreneurs who might otherwise be ignored to tell their stories, to build a community, to have access to the capital and networks that others may just come to expect as part of a startup community. So there's a lot of different projects that interweave and overlap in interesting ways.
Christopher Mitchell: That's helpful. That's really helpful actually and a bit overwhelming, frankly. It is so many things happening. I wonder if some people thought Deb, that maybe you were going to be slowing down a little bit and it sure doesn't look like that. You've got a lot of things going on.
Geoff Millener: Does anyone here knows Deb actually think that was her plan? I can't imagine that.
Deb Socia: I will say I hadn't anticipated the Zoom experience quite so much as what it ended up being. I've had days with 12, 13, 14 Zoom calls. That could definitely be a little bit trying.
Christopher Mitchell: So let me ask you Deb, you've done so many different things, worked in so many different capacities. What do you find really rewarding about the Enterprise Center?
Deb Socia: For me, the whole idea that we can make a difference in somebody's life. That we can push toward more equitable opportunities, more importantly, more equitable outcomes, right? So it's not enough to have the same opportunity if you can't engage with that opportunity and end up with the outcome that others might have. So really this is an opportunity for us to step in where folks are missing the chance to participate in the innovation economy and provide them with a doorway and a hand, right? So, I really love that part of this work. And we really are looking forward to moving on and making some changes in the innovation economy here that could have a significant impact.
Christopher Mitchell: I'm jealous, because as you know from years of doing the national work and the work that we do, we might help out tens or hundreds of communities in ways that we can't always tell what we're doing. And generally we just have to assume, because we don't always see the results of what we do, but I'm jealous you can actually see that and learn from that and iterate.
Deb Socia: It's actually been one of the most important things for me as I get toward the other end of my career, right? I'm older and so the idea that I could work locally and see the impact was really an important next step for me.
Christopher Mitchell: So let's go backwards a little bit to not... Although the things that you've been doing that's interesting, but what's different about COVID-19 since the pandemic began, how has that changed your focus?
Deb Socia: It's been really interesting because one of the problems has been that there are groups of folks that haven't been able to shift to online, right? That includes for example, some of the restaurants. So, we got some volunteers together, we got some restaurant owners who didn't have the tech capacity and we help them share what's different for them now. Can you order online? Do you have to make a phone call? How does this all work? And that's been really important to help these small restaurants maintain. The other group that we found really in significant trouble, were the faith based leaders. They really didn't have the capacity to move online, especially the really smaller black and Latino churches. And so folks were missing a trusted voice in the conversation about how to stay safe. They were missing the message that they received every week. And these small churches are really small businesses and they weren't able to collect their tithes or donations either. So we lost this really important trusted asset.
Deb Socia: So we worked with... I think we've given out 20 or so Wi-Fi hotspots and tablets to folks so that they could do an online sermon or online Bible study. And in some cases would just be able to communicate in a way that allowed people to see each other. It's really been meaningful to us to be able to do that work.
Christopher Mitchell: You haven't upset any key allies in Chattanooga in terms of taking one of the most impressive wired networks in the nation, and then giving people hotspots through a wireless network.
Deb Socia: Yeah, it really is challenging, but as you know, EPB can't cover this whole area because of the state law. And in some cases, even the lowest cost option from EPB because they can't go lower than that cost is too high for some of these small groups, right? And so, EPB has been an amazing partner in this work, and they've done a lot of work to stand up those Wi-Fi hotspots and we've been lucky to work with them. They've just been awesome but they can't solve it all because of the limitations, right? That are put in place by folks in the state house. So, we're just really pleased to be able to partner with them to find solutions. And when we can't find a solution that they can provide to find alternatives.
Christopher Mitchell: I have to assume given how impressive EPB has been at perfecting technologies that have been developed elsewhere and really trying to make them available to everyone. If there is a way to share a sandwich locally made over a fiber optic line, no matter where in the world is developed, I bet EPB will have it within a few days.
Deb Socia: They're very engaged across the board. They're really planning microgrids and figuring out how to solve problems. We're in an area that gets tornadoes, right? So in the middle of this pandemic, we had a tornado blow through town and EPB got everybody back online, really amazingly rapid response, both electricity and Internet was returned back to just about normal in a very short period of time. I just find them impressive.
Christopher Mitchell: Right. Geoff, I think we missed a quip from you.
Geoff Millener: It was going to be a bad, good joke and about a thousand sandwiches. And we're going to move on from [inaudible 00:11:33] Chris. I will say, I'll add to something Deb said earlier in just thinking about local work. And this is not to say this doesn't happen at the national level, but particularly in the face of the pandemic, in the face of the tornadoes, the level at which just partners locally from across sectors came together to solve these challenges, particularly EPB. But looking at churches, looking at nonprofits, looking at hospitals, looking at... There wasn't a sector that wasn't engaged and right at the beginning, our United Way just stood up a call to listen. A 150 organizations on that first from around the city and county and region. Those calls have been going on for 16, 17 weeks now with the same level of participation, same level of coordination, living in a networked town, both physically and socially like Chattanooga's still seeing the level at which folks are able to work together around this lightens the load on everything that's on Deb's plate, certainly.
Christopher Mitchell: Geoff, remember, did you grew up in Chattanooga area?
Geoff Millener: I grew up here.
Christopher Mitchell: Okay.
Geoff Millener: I'm not originally from here but this is definitely home.
Christopher Mitchell: Okay. Because I was curious, I do feel like the Enterprise Center is something that it seems quite special to Chattanooga. It seems something that a lot of places would benefit from in terms of an organization that seems to be focused on connecting people and making the best use of assets in kind of a soft way. Frankly, it seems like the kind of thing that can go a lot of different directions and could be dangerous in the wrong leadership of them not doing enough. And we're going to talk a lot about telehealth and things related to that, that you're working on. But I just wanted to take another second to just sort of know that the Enterprise Center really is something special and it's something that should be iterated on by other communities that I think put too much... There's too much of the fiber optics that people put the success on in Chattanooga. And I regularly try to explain to people it's not about the technology.
Christopher Mitchell: EPB is doing an amazing job and frankly, if EPB had decided to do wireless, it would be one of the best wireless networks. And it's just a matter of culture. It's a matter of working together and sort of listening to the community. It seems like there's a lot of different factors involved that I just want people to appreciate.
Deb Socia: I'll give you an example, right? So we have a mile that is fully sensorized, right? Created by the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative. EPB wired it and got us electricity. UTC created the plans and helped to implement them. The Enterprise Center ran back and forth between the city, the county and EPB and UTC. And it's been an amazing collaboration. It's interesting because when we talk about this nationally, one of the things I always hear is they can't make those connections by themselves. Those big groups have a hard time being the glue. We get to be the glue and it's really amazingly rewarding.
Christopher Mitchell: Geoff, you're nodding your head like maybe if I just poke you, you'd have something to fill in.
Geoff Millener: So I keep that this is audio and I can also... So I was nodding very safe there. I think [inaudible 00:15:02] missing advert there. Deb hit it absolutely on the head. I think that's exactly it. And that how I've always seen our work is that sometimes these projects don't go forward, not because of a lack of good intention, but the fact that there's something that is too difficult for one of those partners to manage on their own or there's something extra that's required and having the sort of middle space, interstitial space where partners like the Enterprise Center can work, make those connections figure out what isn't working and certainly for that pilot version, solve it for the immediate and then work on the structure to make sure that it doesn't just happen one time, but becomes how we get things done.
Christopher Mitchell: So the reason that I finally am getting around to putting you two on the microphone on this show is because Deb and I were talking recently and I was making the case that I feel like we need more research into benefits around telehealth and all of the wide range of things I could include, because I feel like increasing adoption and access are two different challenges we have with the digital divide. A lot of the cost in that could appropriately be spent with an expectation that we would then save money on Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance alone. But also a variety of other benefits from the community. And Deb was sort of like, "Hey knucklehead, we're doing a lot of that already." So, let's talk about that. Deb, how do we introduce folks to what you've been doing in the realms of telehealth?
Deb Socia: Well, I'll tell you, I'm going to let Geoff give you some info about that. But I'll tell you, in the same way that we're worried about folks who couldn't engage in faith based services or restaurants that couldn't stay open. We were worried about folks who for health reasons really couldn't be out in the community, but required support. Whether that's palliative care or hospice or telemental health. And I love them for all that they can do and when I think about telemental health, one of the things that removes in this is stigma, right? I'm not walking into a space that says psychiatry. I am home on my couch. I will be less anxious, less uncomfortable, more obviously about what's going on for me, as opposed to having to deal with all those other ancillary issues. So I just love this as an option. And as somebody getting older, I love the idea that I could age in place and participate in my mental health care and my physical health care through a computer.
Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I would notice, I know someone who has used an option from a healthcare program to speak with someone, a therapist over the telephone. And so it is a wonderful option. It can provide a tremendous help without being stigmatizing. And I can only imagine that a video link could help a lot more for people that would want to have that extra dimension.
Deb Socia: Body language matters. I think the big trick with all of this is making sure that the providers can get paid, right? That's where the struggle has been in the past. Is it an equitable pay if I am providing you with 45 minutes of telemental health to you sitting in my office for mental health care? I think that has been part of the challenge.
Christopher Mitchell: So Geoff, if we go back out to the higher version and generally, how do you get involved in general with the telehealth programs and things like that, how does it all fit within what you do?
Geoff Millener: Yeah, I think part of it is there's a really interesting parallel between digital equity work and health work. We're talking about quality of life. We're talking about health, happiness, success. These are systems level things. I think about it... A cousin when he was studying medicine talking about, what really interested him about, while we're on telemental health, psychiatry in particular, is that they're sort of, you can't set it like you would set an arm, you have to treat the whole person. There are so many different aspects that come into it and thinking about health and health systems in general, that same way that there are so many different aspects that touch people's lives and have their own kind of specific requirements.
Geoff Millener: And that lines up in a really interesting way with access to the people's ability to navigate those systems, that the agency from a digital literacy and digital inclusion side of things can translate to a agency within those health systems. I think it's also what telehealth is able to do. Example of one partner that we're working with, Hospice of Chattanooga, they're part of the Alleo Health System, cover three states, highly rural healthcare in addition to downtown Chattanooga. We've lost in the last decade, I think particularly in middle and east Tennessee, 14 rural hospitals. Deb mentioned in a moment like this, how difficult it is for someone who might be health compromised to actually go visit a hospital, but there's risk involved in this. Again, our parallel to digital equity inclusion, broadband access work, if you don't have access to that hospital anyway, there is no option for you, not even one would risk, there just isn't something. And finding how we can leverage these networks, remote access to make up for what just isn't there anymore is hugely, hugely important.
Geoff Millener: Some of the work that the hospice is doing is around palliative care in particular, which is about aging in place. About quality of life and about dignity of life, even towards the ends of it. And that some of their work is around pain management, around plans of care, around avoiding the emergency room and being at home. Anecdotally from the doctors and caregivers who are engaged in that palliative work, their patients aren't having to drive 45 minutes to see them. And they're not having to do that either. They're able to manage a different sized courseload and keep their patients from having to seek emergency services. Super important in a global pandemic, but important period.
Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I tend to think about is... You mentioned the 45 minute trip, which in itself can be a barrier, but then you layer onto that, perhaps you're responsible for providing care for someone.
Geoff Millener: Yeah.
Christopher Mitchell: Maybe you have to deal with daycare, the people that have the least ability to get across town to get to a medical appointment, it seems to be the ones that we most want to make sure are able to do that because that's often where the public may be paying more of the medical bills. The people who have had less advantages, people who have been discriminated against. And so it seems essential and this is where I tend to think in terms of like, "Okay, where can we put a dollar sign on it?" Because there's people who I think will be much more interested in solving the broadband problem if they thought we'd be able to then spend less on healthcare. And I think I've said this many times on these podcasts, but as someone who's not a specialist in healthcare, it blew me away when I started to understand how much diabetes and mental or cognitive decline in aging are two things that dramatically drive the costs up of medical care.
Christopher Mitchell: And if we can intervene effectively much earlier in the process with those in particular, but also with others, if we can have more successful medical interventions, we just save so much money and saving a lot of money in medical care is huge. I mean, like-
Geoff Millener: As it turns out there's quite a bit.
Christopher Mitchell: Right.
Geoff Millener: And I say this also not as a medical professional in any way. Another example that kind of ties in a bit more of the Enterprise Center's work is asthma is another great space where A, we're doing some sensor work to better understand the reality of the environment, but those asthma visits to the emergency room, days out of school, days missed for work, same same story. And especially when you're talking about its impact on education as well. There are immediate impact, but generational impact, because of asthma and like some of these other systems, we see it rear itself in the most inequitable ways in the communities that can afford at and that suffer for it most.
Deb Socia: So what we've been doing Chris is working with the healthcare organizations to make sure that they and their patients have the technology and access. They need to be able to engage in this, right? Because these are the least connected folks, as well as those most at risk in terms of healthcare. And so when we can give somebody a tablet or a computer, and either help them sign up for low cost access or provide them with a Wi-Fi hotspot, whatever it is, when we can do that, we can really have an impact. We can in a pandemic reduce the visits for people who have a compromised immune system, right? Instead of having to go in for that asthma visit, I can have that asthma visit from home. So, figuring out who needs that resource and how do we get to them, pretty much, we worked with the medical providers as opposed to trying to figure out who needed it, they know who needs the help. And so we've worked primarily with the medical providers.
Christopher Mitchell: Was there a concern or there's anything special you had to do to make sure that you weren't... I can imagine that if I went up to a doctor in Saint Paul and said, "Hey, I'd like to find out all your patients who need a computer and I'd like to give them one." He might say, "Well, wait a minute here. I'm not going to give you my list of patients."
Deb Socia: I actually would never ask that question-
Christopher Mitchell: I wouldn't think that you would.
Deb Socia: [crosstalk 00:25:14] we basically gave the devices to them and they distributed as they need it, right? We definitely didn't want to be the middleman in that work, unless there's somebody they want us to help do training. We are happy to do that, but in the end, our goal was not to be engaged in that way, but rather to facilitate it, right?
Christopher Mitchell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Deb Socia: How [inaudible 00:25:37] allocate this? This is not work that medical providers are really trained to do, but it's what we're trained to do. And so our capacity to help them help their patients really is what made it all work.
Geoff Millener: And I think at that level too, the trend towards telemedicine services, a distance it did not show up during COVID. And we found in reaching out to a handful of partners, who we thought this could be helpful for getting that feedback that this is where we knew we had to head, the timeline has changed. What else can we do? What should we be doing? What would you recommend in this, specifically the connectivity space? And I think those are the kinds of interesting partnerships I alluded to earlier, where we rely on their expertise and they rely on ours. And that's where the outcomes come from.
Deb Socia: We did something similar in the recovery community as well.
Geoff Millener: Actually that's what I was going to push this to, exactly. I assume that's an area that's particularly challenged as people who have been used to going to group meetings.
Deb Socia: Right. And they are really important for folks in recovery and so, how do you provide that? Well, somebody needs a Zoom license, some folks need a device, but it has to be anonymous. And so we facilitated conversations and the process of getting Zoom licenses and helping people share that they're online now. It is tricky because it's another community in which we don't want the list. We couldn't get the list, but what we want to do is help be the facilitator that can connect all the pieces. If that makes sense. And we wrote some grants with a couple of folks on both of those. And the United Way is working with us on the recovery piece and a local group of pastors called Kingdom Partners is helping us on the faith based side.
Christopher Mitchell: Are there any lessons that you learned that you could share with people that might be inspired to try and do this in their community?
Deb Socia: My number one would be one that I think wouldn't surprise anybody who's worked in digital equity. And that is, you got to figure out who's the trusted partner. We are not the trusted partner and we are sometimes I will admit, but not in general, right? So how do we find those folks who people trust and will go to them for support and we support them as they support others, right? So we aren't always doing it directly. We are often using sort of a proxy. Right? And it works really well because it's not a circumstance where folks say, "Yeah, I trust government. Yeah, I trust an organization I've never worked with." But they do trust their local community assets, whether that is a library or a school or a faith based organization or a boys and girls club or the [inaudible 00:28:33]. Right? So how do we leverage that to provide the resources and opportunities that are really desperately needed in the community?
Geoff Millener: I think that's exactly right. I'm trying to think about what my answer to that question would be. I think there's something about this particular moment in time that for the last six years, digital equity inclusion has been one of the chief focuses of our organization. And we've worked with more than 90 different partners around the city to do this work. It's never been and never had to be the primary work of all of those other organizations. And we've really found ourselves kind of working that backend organizational level as the pandemic struck, as life moved online, suddenly connecting became the primary goal of so many of these partners, whether they were churches, whether they were hospitals, whether they were nonprofits or schools, that became and having an entity like ours, that could not as Deb says, step in and do all that work, but really help educate, provide resources, do that backend connecting to allow all of these other systemic partners to be able to do their work.
Geoff Millener: And I don't know that that's a lesson exactly, but the fact that we had a little bit of that lead time that we'd been doing this work for a bit, made all of those connections and kind of the platform to do some of these new things, to end up in spaces I don't think we anticipated, like addiction recovery. But we recognize is just incredibly vital to the health of our community.
Christopher Mitchell: One of the solutions... Because we know that the state law prohibits EPB from going out there and using its power to connect low income folks and offer them a deal that they can afford. The state impose that limit in part, because of a concern that companies and networks like EPB's would try to predatorily price Comcast out of the market, which is crazy to worry about. Nonetheless, that's a barrier you have. But I'm curious, you have this challenge in which you're using all these different technologies and it seems like your not able to use the one that's the most powerful one that's there, sort of the greatest asset that could be there. And I'm just curious, how does the... We haven't talked very much about the Wi-Fi hotspots you've been putting up. We talked more about the mobile wireless hotspots you've handed out, which don't use the fiber network. But how has having EPB there in your corner helped with different solutions as you're challenging these problems when they can't directly intervene?
Deb Socia: They actually have been imperative, right? So they're putting up Wi-Fi hotspots, but they're using their network. So these are robust Wi-Fi hotspots, right?
Geoff Millener: They don't slow down if five people are using them simultaneously?
Deb Socia: Exactly. It's pretty awesome. And we are seeing a lot of use and so we know they are necessary.
Geoff Millener: I'll say on the hotspots as well, to tie it back to health. One of the places where we've been working very closely with EPB over the last... And a couple of philanthropic partners as well as the city is to stand up as steps that are really robust network, particularly in our urban core. Really thinking about sort of a three minute walk [inaudible 00:32:05] for tens of thousands of residents, to be able to access this level of public Wi-Fi, but also using that as a tool to communicate health information. As Deb said, we're getting now tens of thousands of sessions on this public Wi-Fi network that's been stood up at the neighborhood level and not just in parking lots, at our housing authority locations and other subsidized housing locations. And using that network to communicate information about COVID-19, about testing sites, about digital health, about other resources like 211 that families can access in times of trouble and challenge.
Geoff Millener: These are the neighborhoods where when you look at our map, these are the hotspots. These are where families, particularly our Latinx community. 6% of our populations, 60% of our cases right now, have been disconnected and leveraging every tool we've got to help slow down that spread, to provide folks with the information resources they need to be safe is really, really important. I think that's also... We've got EPB is an incredible partner. They're not everywhere and they're not everywhere else either. There is no one solution to any of this. And I think that has been key especially in a moment like this, where it's all hands on deck. It's been everyone working together, whether it's a large national carrier or our local champions to meet people where they are and provide a slew of options to get us to a space where we can think about what's next.
Deb Socia: It's interesting because one of the things that we did with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is work with their GIS folks. So we've got... I can go to that interactive map, put in my location and it will show me where I can go to get free Wi-Fi and it's within a very short distance of almost everybody to be able to find that. That's a really good positive step. It's not everything, it's not perfect, but it is a good part of that puzzle. That mix of solutions that we need in order to ensure that no one is without connectivity.
Geoff Millener: And especially you don't have to have an address to be able to access this network. There are all kinds of reasons that having this at the very least to feel safe. There is always an option available to you regardless of circumstance. Like we said, we know it's not the only option, it's not the only thing we need to do, but it's there and it is for everyone. I don't know, that's been our approach to all of the above in Chattanooga.
Christopher Mitchell: I think it sets a high bar and I hope it's inspiring others to think about what they can do locally to try to iterate on these ideas and if nothing else push you all to keep moving toward your next great announcement. So, I'm looking forward to frankly, traveling down to Chattanooga again, it's been too long and I thought I would see Deb this fall, but now I guess I won't be coming down for an event. But as soon as possible, I very much want to come back and see from my own eyes all the great things that are happening there.
Deb Socia: We'd love to have you.
Christopher Mitchell: Thank you so much, Deb.
Deb Socia: Thank you. It's great to see you. It's great to talk with you.
Christopher Mitchell: And, Geoff, Wonderful again, I look forward to a future of net inclusion where we were altogether and not wearing masks and perform a comic routine rather than talking about broadband.
Geoff Millener: It's hard to convey the level of sarcasm I see in you right now. Chris, it's always a pleasure. I really enjoy. I always learn something. I always learn something from Deb and I always learn something from you. So thanks for letting me join you two on talking on this as well.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That was Christopher talking with Deb Socia and Geoff Millener. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.org/broadbandbits. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handle is @communitynets. Follow muninetworks.org stories on Twitter, the handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR. Building Local Power, Local Energy Rules and the Composting for Community podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org. While you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song, Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons. This was episode 417 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Thanks for listening.