/ Modified oct 25, 2019 4:14 p.m.

Census 2020, broadband in Arizona, Mayor Rothschild

How broadband speeds factor into quality of life.

242 web summary:

Preparations for the 2020 census include a push from the U.S. Census Bureau to hire more than half a million workers nationwide. The bureau has tens of thousands of positions in Arizona alone, according to Southern Arizona partnership coordinator Tammy Parise. Parise discussed job opportunities and what residents should expect when surveying begins.

“For the first time in history we have multiple options for response. And we will go online for the first time. Or another option is by telephone response, where the household will call the bureau as opposed to us calling back to the households,” Parise said. “And ultimately, for those who still prefer the paper questionnaire, that will still be available as well.”

The U.S. Census Bureau wants to hire 57,000 temporary employees to help conduct the census. Hourly pay ranges from $13 to $19.50, depending on the county, according to Parise. She said the application process takes about half an hour and can be done online here.

Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies can indicate the well-being of a community. In Southern Arizona, an online research project known as the MAP Dashboard makes similar findings. The University of Arizona Eller College of Management launched the project in late 2014, and it tracks 36 socioeconomic indicators that the public can view. Senior research economist Jennifer Pullen explained what the information tells us about the Tucson metro’s economy.

“The data has shown that Tucson has been improving, especially since the Great Recession,” Pullen said. “Another thing the MAP really pointed out for the Tucson region compared to some of the other regions around the western U.S. was just how hard hit the Tucson metropolitan area was by the Great Recession.”

You can view the MAP Dashboard here.

As major U.S. wireless carriers gradually roll out 5G — the next generation in cellular technology that will carry faster speeds — they’re giving existing 4G networks a boost in Tucson with the introduction of more small cell poles across the city.

The poles are designed to enhance broadband coverage in high-demand areas. Tucson has about 70 small cell poles but providers want to install hundreds more.

“We have over 200 permits that have been submitted as of now to construct more throughout the city limits,” said Erica Frazelle, a spokesperson for the city’s Transportation Department.

The department reviews applications and gives providers permission to work in the public right of way. Once the city grants a permit, providers have 90 days to complete construction. Afterward, the city owns the pole, according to Frazelle. She said the city began receiving more applications a few years ago shortly after a new state law significantly lowered maintenance fees for providers from upwards of $3,000 to $100 a year.

Most poles are located downtown and around the University of Arizona, but dozens more are permitted to go up in midtown and on the south side.

“I think we’re all into having fast internet. Everything we do is internet based, so having that ability and having these poles so close to where you are is a positive,” Frazelle said.

Frazelle added that poles installed by Verizon are equipped with technology that can support 5G. In a statement, Verizon said it has not announced 5G plans for Tucson, but in August the company began offering 5G service in parts of Phoenix, along with Sprint.

Phoenix became the first city in Arizona to begin receiving 5G service earlier this year. Major carriers only offer 5G service in a few dozen cities nationwide, but that’s expected to increase over the next few years. Arizona 360 learned more about 5G’s significance from Ravi Tandon, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona College of Engineering.

As Arizona takes steps to improve access broadband, it’s looking at shortfalls in service in rural areas and tribal lands. According to the state’s 2018 Broadband Strategic Plan, 95% of the tribal land population have either unserved or underserved telecommunications capabilities. As a result, many rely on what’s known as a community anchor institution such as schools, libraries and other facilities that support the community.

On the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, the Tohono O’odham Community College serves that role. Lorraine Rivera traveled to Sells to learn more about the ongoing need for faster internet speeds from the college’s dean of sustainability, Mario Montes-Helu, and IT technician Shawn Nez, who also grew up on the nation.

The college has a National Science Foundation grant to improve cyberinfrastructure in order to support STEM research and education on campus. TOCC is also part of an IT consortium with other tribal colleges in New Mexico and Arizona. They are exploring different technologies that can help decrease the “homework gap,” which refers to the obstacles students experience when they try to complete homework without reliable internet access.

In a few weeks, Tucson will tally the ballots in its election and learn who its next mayor will be. In his final weeks in that office, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild sat down with Christopher Conover to reflect on his last two terms.

Rothschild said he’s most proud of increasing transparency at City Hall. He said the public had distrust in local government, something he worked to combat by calling on the city manager and department heads to respond to public inquiries they received within 48 hours.

“It doesn’t mean you have to tell the person that you’re going to do what they say, but a lot of times we probably can. And if we can’t, let’s just tell them why we can’t,” Rothschild said. “So that sort of built a new communication with our constituency.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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