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Rural News

T-Mobile fined $40 million for faking ringtones and failing calls in rural areas

BGR Media | Posted on April 17, 2018

T-Mobile will pay the US Treasury $40 million to settle a dispute with the FCC over failed calls and faked ringtones for rural areas. The FCC annouced the fine, following a years-long investigation into actions that took place starting in 2016. The complaint broadly concerns how T-Mobile treats rural calls, specifically problems T-Mobile has with connecting calls to rural areas and the length of time taken to establish a call. The most significant problem appears to be that T-Mobile injected fake ringtones onto the line before the phone on the other end of the line started ringing, something that helps mask how long T-Mobile was taking to connect calls, but is also against FCC rules.  “The investigation also revealed T-Mobile’s practice of injecting false ring tones into certain calls. T-Mobile reported that it had done so on hundreds of millions of calls and admitted that its actions violated the Commission’s prohibition of injecting false ring tones on any calls.”

How a rural electric co-op connected a community

High Country News | Posted on April 16, 2018

Molly Byrnes, 34, and Jesse Hofmann-Smith, 35, can’t reliably make phone calls on their cellular network from their cozy apartment on the outskirts of Taos, New Mexico, but they can host real-time webinars and build websites online for clients across the country. Their casita is one of about 6,300 homes and businesses in northern New Mexico connected to a high-speed fiber-optic internet network run by an unlikely source: the local electric cooperative. An increasing number of rural electric cooperatives in the U.S. are launching locally run fiber-optic internet networks, a model researchers cite as a way to bring New York City-speed internet to rural areas ignored by major telecommunications companies who can’t make enough return on investment. Of the roughly 900 electric cooperatives in the U.S., 60 offer fiber-optic internet access.  Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos, since 1944 the sole electric provider in much of northern New Mexico, was one of the first. It took 10 years and three tries at federal funding to reach where Kit Carson is today: nearly 3,000 miles of fiber-optic cables entrenched underground, strung along mountainous highways and dangling over an 800-foot-deep river gorge, reaching 6,300 customers to date with a waitlist of 12,000 more.

Opioid misuse in rural Iowa

Wallace's Farmer | Posted on April 13, 2018

The opioid crisis has hit rural America especially hard where workers tend to have higher injury rates with many jobs requiring physical labor and involving more risk. A December survey by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that as many as 74% of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis.  The opioid crisis has hit rural America especially hard where workers tend to have higher injury rates with many jobs requiring physical labor and involving more risk. A December survey by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that as many as 74% of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis.According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, opioids were a contributing factor to 59 deaths in Iowa in 2005 and 608 admissions for opioid treatment across the state. In 2016, the figures jumped to 180 opioid-related deaths and 2,274 treatment admissions.

How Ponce's law will help protect Florida pets | Posted on April 12, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that will help prevent animal-abuse offenders from owning pets. Ponce’s Law is named after Ponce, a Labrador retriever puppy found beaten to death in Ponce Inlet last year. The puppy’s owner, Travis Archer, is awaiting trial on felony animal cruelty charges. What the animal-cruelty law does do is allow judges to bar offenders from owning a pet for a court-ordered period of time.The law also increases the chances of offenders receiving a sentencing that includes jail time. Ponce’s Law increased the severity ranking of an animal abuse-related crime. For example; before Ponce’s Law, an offender would have scored a Level 3 offense, which carries 16 points. After the law that same offense is a Level 5, with 28 points, meaning if a person is convicted on an animal cruelty charge they are more likely to do jail time.

Oregon governor signs net neutrality bill

AP | Posted on April 12, 2018

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Monday withholding state business from internet providers who throttle traffic, making the state the second to finalize a proposal aimed at thwarting moves by federal regulators to relax net neutrality requirements. The bill stops short of actually putting new requirements on internet service providers in the state, but blocks the state from doing business with providers that offer preferential treatment to some internet content or apps, starting in 2019. The move follows a December vote by the Federal Communications Commission repealing Obama-era rules that prohibited such preferential treatment, referred to generally as throttling, by providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.

Washington state can sue Purdue Pharma over opioid marketing: judge

Reuters | Posted on April 12, 2018

A Washington state court judge has rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general seeking to hold the pharmaceutical company accountable for its role the opioid epidemic. King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Moore on Friday denied Purdue’s motion to dismiss Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s case, becoming the third judge nationally to allow a state to pursue claims against the opioid manufacturer.

Trump signs executive order pushing work requirements for the poor

CNN | Posted on April 11, 2018

The president called for enforcing work requirements that are already in the law and reviewing all waivers and exemptions to such mandates. Also, the executive order asked agencies to consider adding work requirements to government aid programs that lack them. The agencies have 90 days to submit a list of recommended policy and regulatory changes.The move is the latest step in the administration's effort to require low-income Americans to work for their federal benefits. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services earlier this year began allowing states to mandate that certain Medicaid enrollees must work for the first time in the program's history, while the Department of Housing and Urban Development is looking into the issue for those in subsidized housing. Consumer advocates, however, argue that work requirements will lead to millions of people losing crucial assistance. Putting in place such mandates doesn't take into account barriers to employment, such as medical conditions, child care and transportation."So-called 'work requirements' are premised on a set of myths about poverty," said Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the left-leaning Center for American Progress."First, that 'the poor' are some stagnant group of people who 'just don't want to work.' Second, that anyone who wants a well-paying job can snap her fingers to make one appear. And third, that having a job is all it takes to not be poor," she said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs new limits on welfare programs into law

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Posted on April 11, 2018

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday signed new limits on welfare programs into law, committing state and federal taxpayers to nearly $80 million in spending to draw more people into the labor force. "Our ... welfare reform bills ensure help to those who truly need it, while providing the training and assistance they need to re-enter the workforce and regain independence," Walker said in a statement.Supporters have said that, with the state's unemployment rate at an all-time low of 2.9%, it's the ideal time to shift more people from food stamps and other public benefits to jobs. Though these measures could cost state taxpayers in the short run, they could save money for the federal taxpayers who cover that program's benefits, they say. 

Iowa 'sanctuary' city ban signed into law

Des Moines Register | Posted on April 11, 2018

Iowa cities and counties that intentionally violate federal immigration law will have their state funding revoked under a bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday.  Senate File 481 targets so-called sanctuary communities across the state and has drawn widespread debate in the Capitol and across the state. It takes effect July 1. Reynolds, a Republican, did not hold a public bill signing event. Supporters say the new law will maintain public safety and uphold the rule of law, but critics argue that Iowa has no sanctuary cities and that the bill will only stoke racial fears that could fuel discrimination.

USDA offering funding to address opioid crisis in rural communities

CBS | Posted on April 10, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to a pair of grant programs that aim to address opioid misuse in rural communities. The federal agency is setting aside $5 million in the Community Facilities Grant program and is giving priority to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program applications that propose innovative projects addressing the issue."The opioid epidemic is dramatically impacting prosperity in many small towns and rural places across the country," said Anne Hazlett, the assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. "This this focused investment, we are targeting our resources to be a strong partner with rural communities in building an effective local response to this significant challenge."Under the Community Facilities Grant program, rural communities, nonprofits and federally recognized tribes can apply for grants of up to $150,000 for projects like mobile treatment clinics. They can fund up to 75 percent of an eligible project.