Nathaniel Rasmussen | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Digital Developers

Nathaniel Rasmussen is leading the charge in central Pennsylvania to install Wi-Fi “help hot spots” by using TV white space in nine regional parks. Rasmussen and his team at Schlow Centre Region Library will deploy the first three or four locations by June 2018 to offer open Internet access to residents and a homework portal for public school students in Centre County, PA.
Nathaniel Rasmussen

CURRENT POSITION

Head of IT Services, Schlow Centre Region Library, State College, PA

DEGREE

Penn State, 1996–98

FAST FACT

Rasmussen serves on the board of two nonprofits—a local yoga group and C-Net, the Centre County’s Government and Education Access Television Network.

FOLLOW

@nrasmus on Twitter; Schlow Library's TV Whitespace Project; Schlow Musings

Photo by Michael Black/Black Sun®

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TV Goes Wifi

Nathaniel Rasmussen is leading the charge in central Pennsylvania to install Wi-Fi “help hot spots” by using TV white space in nine regional parks. Rasmussen and his team at Schlow Centre Region Library will deploy the first three or four locations by June 2018 to offer open Internet access to residents and a homework portal for public school students in Centre County, PA.

A wireless Internet signal using TV white space—the unused, low-powered sections of the radio spectrum allocated to television broadcasters—can travel a radius of up to six miles, at least 200 times the reach of conventional Wi-Fi. In the rural areas in and surrounding Centre County, between 30 and 40 percent of residents lack high-speed Internet access. The Schlow Library sees TV white space as a low-cost method to bridge the digital divide.

The Schlow project is among a handful of similar efforts nationwide. It is Rasmussen’s ability to build partnerships and leverage his “vast community connections” that positioned the library to be a regional change agent, says Director Catherine Alloway, who nominated him. Rasmussen’s willingness to share his expertise in technological innovations and his development of an easily duplicated TV white space template will be an asset to other organizations, Alloway adds.

While changes to federal regulations have effectively rescinded net neutrality (for now), Rasmussen says Schlow’s TV white space project will be cushioned from immediate impact because its Internet service provider doesn’t intend to change the access it provides. But the library may experience a “ripple effect as other companies are hit with a rise in costs,” he says.

Rasmussen and his team are navigating various regulations and testing equipment, including a partnership with the local Maker space for an Internet café at the Centre County Grange Fair. The fair has already yielded a real-world test using Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)–funded equipment from the Pennsylvania Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the lessons learned will inform future installations, he says.

Rasmussen anticipates his work will benefit neighboring rural broadband-challenged communities in the near future. “We hope to learn as [much] as we can, so we can find a model that will scale to the more rural (and needy) populations in our county,” Rasmussen says.

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