March 09, 2016

 

http://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2016/ntia-launches-community-connectivity-initiative-backing-major-community-groups

Access to broadband means economic growth, new employment opportunities, and improvements in education, health care, and public safety. NTIA’s recognition of this central fact of the 21st century is why we have engaged in a range of efforts to increase Internet access, adoption, and digital literacy, from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program [1] funded by the Recovery Act to the creation of the first public, searchable nationwide map of broadband availability [2].

As a continuation of those efforts, NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program is partnering with national organizations representing millions of Americans in more than a thousand localities across the country to develop the Community Connectivity Initiative [3] (Initiative). The Initiative will empower communities across the country by giving them tools to support and accelerate local broadband planning efforts. NTIA, in close collaboration with its partners, will create a comprehensive online assessment tool to help community leaders identify critical broadband needs and connect them with expertise and resources. The tool will provide a framework of benchmarks and indicators on access, adoption, policy, and use for communities.

The Initiative is part of a broader effort announced by the White House today [4] to connect 20 million more Americans to the Internet by 2020. Another element of that announcement is a recommendation for the Federal Communications Commission to modernize its Lifeline telephony subsidy program. NTIA filed comments with the FCC on behalf of the Administration, expressing strong support for expanding the Lifeline program to connect more low-income Americans to broadband.

For the Initiative, NTIA will engage with partners and the public to mold the self-assessment, share insights on recommendations, pilot online tools, engage their members, and identify resources for local communities and organizations. Among the groups supporting the initiative are:

  • American Library Association
  • Blandin Foundation
  • ConnectME Authority
  • EveryoneOn
  • ICMA, The International City/County Management Association
  • National Association of Counties
  • National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
  • National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • National League of Cities
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Next Century Cities
  • NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association
  • Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition
  • US Ignite

In addition, dozens of cities and towns have signed on as collaborators. They are: Ammon, Idaho; Arvada, Colo.; Baltimore, Md.; Bettendorf, Iowa; Boston, Mass.; Charlotte, N.C.; Hopewell, Va.; Hurst, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Kenmore, Wash.; Lenexa, Kan.; Putnam, Conn.; Sammamish, Wash.; Hot Springs, Ark.; Oak Harbor, Wash.; Greenbelt, Md.; SeaTac, Wash.; Red Wing, Minn.; Baltimore, Md.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Kansas City, Mo. If you are part of a community or organization that wants to contribute or participate, send an email to BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov [5].

In the coming weeks, NTIA will hold workshops and webinars to solicit further feedback and bring more stakeholders into the process. A workshop is planned for March 22 in Seattle [6] as part of BroadbandUSA’s “Digital Northwest” regional summit, and two webinars are planned for March 24 and April 12 [6].

The Initiative builds on NTIA’s extensive support for broadband planning, infrastructure deployment, public computer centers, and a wide range of community applications. Through its BroadbandUSA program, NTIA provides guidance, recommendations, and educational materials to communities that are seeking to deploy broadband infrastructure or improve broadband adoption and digital literacy.

NTIA’s BroadbandUSA technical assistance team provides support to cities and communities as they work on digital inclusion strategies to get their citizens online. For example, last month NTIA jointly convened a roundtable in Baltimore with the White House and the City of Baltimore to identify strategies to expand broadband adoption and digital literacy within the city’s housing authorities, libraries, and schools. NTIA invited former grantees from Philadelphia, Boston, and the District of Columbia, who shared their expertise. NTIA is continuing to support those cities as they develop their plans.

NTIA also plays a role in tracking the progress of broadband adoption through its Digital Nation initiative [7]. The most recent data, collected in July 2015 and to be released soon, promises to shed light on how the rise of mobile technology and concerns about privacy and security are affecting broadband adoption and use.

The Community Connectivity Initiative recognizes the important role communities play in assisting the Obama Administration’s efforts to close the digital divide. While we have made significant progress, there is more work to be done, and we look forward to closely collaborating with communities, partners, and the public to achieve our goals.