A robust, efficient, and well-maintained infrastructure system is critical to support and sustain the nation's economy, improve the quality of life, and strengthen global competitiveness. One of the integral parts of an efficient infrastructure system is supporting communities in their advancement of expanding high-speed internet access and digital inclusion. Recently, the National Resource Network (NRN) and ICMA 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. Within it, a section discusses many of the obstacles that communities will face as they seek to expand broadband access. Learning from the experiences of peers can help communities avoid or resolve some of the more common challenges that they may encounter when expanding broadband access and digital inclusion. Here are three common challenges and solutions that you should know:
1. Gaining the support of local government leadership.
For many communities struggling with economic and public safety challenges, it may be difficult to get broadband access to the elected body's radar, and even more difficult to establish this as a high priority. It will be important to ensure that elected officials understand the impact that broadband access can have on workforce and economic development, as well as equity and inclusiveness within a community. Making a clear connection between proposed initiatives and the highest-priority needs of the community will make it easier to gain and maintain the support of the government's elected leadership.
2. Keeping multiple stakeholders organized and focused.
Stakeholders need to agree on and document a project plan very early in the process. Changes in direction can occur, but navigation is easier when there are agreement and documentation of the overall goals and each partner's role.
3. Circumventing low trust in government.
Because of the relatively low trust toward government (at any level), it is recommended that communities allow organizations with higher levels of trust to be the public-facing side of the initiative. Local organizations to consider include the library, public school system, faith-based institutions, or social service agencies. Local government leaders should ask themselves, "What organization(s) in our community have higher levels of trust and social capital with the target audience?"
For the full list common challenges and solutions to expanding broadband access and inclusion in the community, download the guide. In coordination with the guide, attend 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.