The city of Santa Monica’s efforts to shrink the digital divide ranks as one of the Top 25 Programs in American Government of 2017. That’s according to Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, who names the top programs in governance based on innovation in government policy.
Santa Monica’s award-winning Digital Inclusion pilot program targeted broadband access efforts by connecting ten affordable housing units with high-speed Internet, along with tech training and education. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the city received nearly $2 million in seed money from a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant to start to fund the efforts. So far the program has given 10 buildings access to free gigabit-speed Internet access in the communal areas, with in-unit gigabit capability for $48 a month; the program has since started expanding to 29 other affordable housing complexes.
Here’s what the city’s community broadband manager had to say about the program in the Daily Press article:
“Our community’s experience is shattering the antiquated notion of broadband, technology and tech education as a luxury,” said Gary Carter, the City’s Community Broadband Manager. “Residents are providing indisputable evidence of an ability and willingness to participate in civic innovation. Taking care of our most vulnerable first, sets a higher bar and we accept the challenge.”
This isn’t the first time the city has gotten recognition for its approach to getting Internet to its residents. Its municipal broadband, Santa Monica City Net, has won numerous awards, including the same Harvard Ash Center Top 25 Programs prize back in 2011.
We’ve written about City Net, the deployment, and the many benefits. We've also interviewed Jory Wolf for episode 90 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, who discussed Santa Monica’s incremental approach to building out its fiber. Their strategy, along with persistence on the part of its municipal leadership, helped make it a model for how municipalities can develop Internet infrastructure over time. Our 2014 case study, Santa Monica City Net: An Incremental Approach to Building a Fiber Optic Network, provides a detailed account of the multi-year process.
You can learn more about Santa Monica's digital inclusion program here.