The National Resource Network (NRN) and ICMA recently launched Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age, the first broadband resource guide developed by and for local governments to address the digital divide in their communities. In coordination with the guide’s release, NRN will host a complimentary broadband access webinar on January 12, 2017, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. EST, to engage communities across the country that seek guidance in partnership and training. Register here to attend the webinar.
An NRN member, ICMA collaborated on the project with municipal managers from six NRN cities: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gonzales, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Springfield, Missouri; and Youngstown, Ohio; as well as representatives from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
One in 10 Americans does not have access to high-speed Internet, and 39 percent of rural Americans lack broadband access, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s “2016 Broadband Progress Report.” In 2016, as a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mandate to increase Internet access for low-income Americans, the NRN brought together representatives from 6 of the more than 32 current network cities to transform their own experiences with broadband access into strategic guidance for other communities.
Through Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age, NRN and its partners created an online community where local leaders can draw upon the work of those who have gone before them, tapping into peer-pioneering cities and global supports from nonprofit organizations.
The guide outlines the following key strategies for success in expanding community access to reliable high-speed Internet service:
- Seek partners and resources. Getting the right individuals and groups together to work on the complex social and technical issues involved in expanding access is an important first step.
- Understand barriers and limitations. Identifying the issues helps communities understand what’s possible and what needs to be done.
- Engage the community. Public engagement informs/inspires prioritization and ensures the initiative meets the community’s needs.
- Select the best model. After assessing the landscape and engaging the community, local governments should assess the viability of possible models, including municipal broadband or private internet service providers.
- Identify a manager. Communities need a lead organization to drive the implementation and ensure that the realities of the new network live up to its promise.
- Measure outcomes and share successful practices. Information sharing is critical for communities to understand lessons learned and best practices.
ICMA also recently published a related article, “Advancing Local Broadband Access: Six Strategies for Success,” in the November 2016 issue of PM magazine. The article highlights the strategies developed by the six NRN cities referenced above to guide jurisdictions that seek to advance high-speed Internet access and digital literacy in their communities.