Tag: "digital divide"

Posted October 5, 2018 by lgonzalez

For all their attempts to tout their accomplishments, the current FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai is failing miserably at the their promise to shrink the digital divide in America. In a recent commentary in The Hill, policy and program manager for Next Century Cities Cat Blake explains how, rather than reducing the gap between Internet haves and have-nots, policy changes under the new administration is making the problem worse. Cat offers a few specific examples of policies and actions taken by the current FCC that have not only aggravated the problem of digital inclusion, but masked the realities of its severity.

Lifeline Under Attack

The federal Lifeline Program offers subsidies for phone and Internet access connections for low-income folks. Blake writes that this tool, one of the most effective in allowing people to obtain access to the Internet, is one of Pai’s targets — a big target:

Pai’s proposed changes would cut off approximately 70 percent of the 10 million program participants — including approximately 44,000 individuals in DC alone — widening the digital divide among the country’s most vulnerable populations. Lifeline is the only federal program that provides subsidies to disadvantaged Americans for 21st century communications services and it is relied upon by victims of domestic violence, military veterans, homeless youth and others to stay connected.

Broadband Deployment

Pai has continuously claimed that the current FCC has “taken significant steps to expand broadband deployment in previously unserved parts of our country.” While the 2018 Broadband Deployment Report offered a six percent increase in the number of people with access to broadband — increasing to 95 percent — Blake notes that the increase wasn’t purely due to deployment:

That 95 percent, however, includes 10.5 million people who have access only to satellite service, which was not considered an adequate broadband connection under former FCC leadership….The agency’s documented expansion of broadband is actually the result of an explicit decision to lower federal standards of acceptable service, as opposed to a change in the amount of Americans actually served by high-speed internet….In...

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Posted September 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

This week on the podcast, we get insight into a community network that puts extra emphasis on the word “community.” Diana Nucera, Director of the Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) talks with Christopher about how the people in her city and their diversity are the driving forces behind the connectivity they have created.

Diana and Christopher review the origins of the DCTP and some of the challenges Diana and her group have had to contend with to get the project this far. She also describes how the program is doing more than providing Internet access at a reasonable cost and how perspectives about technology extend into many other areas of life. Those perspectives influence how people use or don’t use the Internet, which in turn, impact digital inclusion. Getting people online is only one ingredient in the recipe for digital equity.

In addition to information about the specific ways stewards in the program help expand it, Diana describes how they and other participants in the program have benefitted in unexpected ways. She shares the progress of the DCTP and, most importantly, some of the valuable lessons that she’s learned that can help other communities who may decide to establish similar programs to help improve digital inclusion on a local level.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 40 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or download the mp3 file directly from here.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Check out this interview with Diana from November 2017:

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Posted August 1, 2018 by Hannah Rank

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...

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Posted July 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

On Independence Day, Americans celebrate the ingenuity, grit, and fortitude that led us to now. We’ve chosen this day to remember the decision to establish the United States as an independent country. Like other civilizations that have come and gone, America will always have times of honor and unbecoming moments in history, but its citizens have learned self-reliance — it’s in our DNA.

In this video from Motherboard and CNet, we have the chance to see a group of citizens from several Detroit neighborhoods take charge of their own digital future through local self-reliance. The people of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) are taking advantage of  dark fiber in the city to provide connectivity to residents in areas of the city sorely needing Internet access and better services. The group is composed of several organizations and, in addition to deploying high-speed wireless technology to serve residents and businesses, they’re heading up programs for young people to increase adoption and provide training.

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution declared their independence, they did so based on economics, social justice, and the desire for autonomy. Diana Nucera and her group, the Detroit Community Technology Project, express a similar motivation as they declare their independence through local self-reliance.

“We risk our human rights if we don’t take ownership and control over the Internet in a way that is decentralized.” - Diana Nucera, Director, Detroit Community Technology Project

If you're inspried by this story, you can donate to the project.

Posted June 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez, Colorado, has been serving public facilities, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and businesses officially since 2011. In 2015, they expanded to bring fiber connectivity to more businesses; today, seven providers offer services on their open access infrastructure. Now, Cortez is ready to take the next step by offering retail services to residents as an ISP; they’re engaged in a pilot project that will help them determine the best way to move forward. This week, General Services Director Rick Smith joins Christopher to discuss past, present, and future in this town of approximately 9,000.

The guys met up at Mountain Connect in Vail, where they’re joining many other industry and policy professionals discuss infrastructure, connectivity, and policy. While at the conference, Rick and the city received the Community Project of the Year Award.

Rick was on the show in 2014 to describe how this rural community incrementally built its network with local investment and state contributions. This time, Cortez is considering ways to shrink its digital divide and examining funding through ways other than traditional revenue bonding. They’ve also been working on regional efforts to help neighbors get the kind of connectivity needed for economic development. Rick describes how the outdoor equipment retailer Osprey has set up its headquarters in Cortez -- first on the list of necessities was not physical real estate, but the ability to access dark fiber.

As Cortez looks at challenges to achieve their goal of citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), they’re considering inventive and methodical ways to reduce costs. They are committed to bringing high-quality Internet access to every citizen in Cortez because they realize that, without action, residents face a potential monopoly provider.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

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Posted May 7, 2018 by htrostle

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we often write about improving broadband availability. Access is only the first step. Even in places where broadband is available, it may be unaffordable. To that end, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) sponsors events in early May each year on the importance of digital inclusion and equity.

Public libraries, nonprofits, and many others take part. For instance, the Los Angeles Public Library is hosting a panel on digital inclusion, and there will also be a donation drive for old technology. Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest College of Art will have a Digital Inclusion Summit focused on economic opportunity. Find an event near your, or register your own, at https://www.digitalinclusion.org/diw/ Connect online on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with #digitalinclusion#DIW2018, and #DigitalEquityIs_____

Watch FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel speak about digital equity. Communities across the U.S. face many challenges, from the homework gap to digital redlining:

 

Posted April 24, 2018 by htrostle

Internet access isn't effective when it takes forever to load a single webpage or when subscribers spend hours babysitting their computers to ensure files make it through the upload process. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we create maps analyzing publicly available data to show disparities in access and highlight possible solutions. We've recently taken an in-depth look at Georgia and want to share our findings with two revealing maps. According to the FCC's 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, 29.1 percent of the state's rural population lacks broadband access, but only 3 percent of the urban population shares the same problem. Cooperatives and small municipal networks are making a difference in several of these rural communities.

Technology Disparities Across the State

The map below shows what kinds of technology Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are using to offer Internet service to homes or businesses in Georgia. To differentiate areas of the state, the lines represent the subdivisions within counties. Our analysis focuses on wireline technologies, specifically fiber, cable, and DSL. Satellite and fixed wireless services are too dependent on the weather and the terrain for our analysis.

map of georgia, DSL in rural areas

In rural Georgia, premises with wireline access most often rely on DSL; cable and fiber tend to be clustered around towns and cities where population density is higher. Google, for instance, operates a fiber network within Atlanta, Georgia. The large amount of fiber in the eastern half is the Planters Rural Telephone Cooperative, one of the many rural cooperatives that are taking steps to help rural communities obtain the access they need to keep pace with urban centers.

Although DSL service is widespread, it's the least reliable and slowest of the three technologies. It often relies on old copper lines. Cable is more dependable than DSL, but typically slows down significantly during peak web traffic times, such as early evening in residential areas or business hours in downtowns or other areas where businesses cluster. Sometimes called the gold standard of Internet service,...

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Posted April 20, 2018 by lgonzalez

Deb Socia has been working on equity for others in a variety of ways throughout her career and so it was no surprise to us that she received this year’s Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award. Deb received the award on April 18th in Cleveland at Net Inclusion 2018.

Before serving as Executive Director of Next Century Cities, Deb spent three decades working in education as both a teacher and school administrator. While working in the Boston Public Schools, she acted as founding principal of the one-to-one laptop initiative at Lilla G. Frederick Middle School, an award winning school. Her continuing efforts in digital equity included a role as Executive Director of the Tech Goes Home program, also in Boston, that connected students, parents, and schools to technology resources.

We Love Deb

We’ve spent many hours working with Deb in her capacity at Next Century Cities. Her ability to bring local communities together to share victories and voice common concerns make her ideal for this role. She’s able to see a broad spectrum of issues related to digital inclusion that influence local communities’ ability to improve economic development, enhance public education, and improve their quality of life. Her personable leadership qualities at Next Century Cities and throughout her career inspire trust and confidence.

It’s no surprise that Deb has received a long list of other awards, including the Community Broadband Hero Award from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), the Pathfinder Award from MassCUE, “Leadership and Vision” from CRSTE, Frederick Community Advocate Award, and an NTENny award. Be sure to check out this profile of Deb from Motherboard; she won a Humans of the Year award in 2017.

Adrienne B. Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Foundation, presented the award to Deb at Net Inclusion 2018 in Cleveland. The event is organized by the National Digital...

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Posted April 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

The North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) released a report in March with several recommendations designed to help the state boost connectivity for residents, businesses, and organizations. NCLM Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia and CTC Technology and Energy President Joanne Hovis authored the report that offers policy changes to encourage smart partnerships.

Download the report, Leaping theDigital Divide: Encouraging Policies and Partnership to Improve Broadband Access Across North Carolina.

The report dedicates time describing different public-private partnership models and the elements that make them distinct. In recent years, the term has been used to describe a broad spectrum of arrangements. We've highlighted partnerships in places like Westminster, Maryland, and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, where both partners invest and share in risk and reward.

The North Carolina Situation

Wynia and Hovis spend time on the gap of coverage in rural areas vs coverage in urban areas. They compare data from the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office and the FCC’s form 477. The authors explain why FCC data is so flawed and provide examples of real people who’s lives are impacted due to access to broadband, or lack of it, in their community.

Fiber is the best option for future-proof, fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. Wynia and Hovis compare fiber to other technologies and explain we can’t let hype cloud our long-term thinking. We were happy to supply our map of private ISP fiber availability in North Carolina so readers can see where it’s currently deployed in the state.

2018-03-NCLM-report-small.jpg The report looks at the state’s existing law that limits local authority regarding municipal broadband infrastructure. As the authors point out, state law does not expressly address local communities’ authority as it...

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Posted March 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

We’ve reported on many communities where citizen grassroots groups mobilized to implement change for better connectivity which often resulted in publicly owned Internet networks. Each community is different and some places require a more active group of advocates to bring change. A group of citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been working to bring attention to their community’s need for better options for several years. Recently, they formed Upgrade Cambridge, as a way to share information and spread the word about their initiative for a publicly owned fiber optic network.

Organic Organizing

Local Saul Tannebaum has consistently led efforts to bring municipal fiber infrastructure to Cambridge. Tannenbaum is one of eight individuals that are on the Upgrade Cambridge steering committee. He recently told the Cambridge Day:

“This grew completely organically. Folks starting contacting me in January asking what was going on with broadband and how they could help. People pulled in others in their own networks and the effort just took off…The city already knows how the Broadband Task force feels about this. It’s time for them to hear from others.”

In 2014, the City Manager appointed the Cambridge Broadband Task Force, which developed recommendations that they presented in 2016; Tannenbaum was a member of the task force. According to the founders of Upgrade Cambridge, the lack of response from the City Manager is driving the formation of the group. They feel that if community leaders hear from everyday Cambridge citizens and realize the magnitude of the problem, city leaders will feel more compelled to act.

The city also hired a consultant who recommended that Cambridge develop a dark fiber network, but find a private sector ISPs to provide last mile connectivity to businesses and residents via the city owned fiber. Another recommendation from the consultant in 2016 was that the city provide last mile fiber only to the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) locations. The task force disagreed with these recommendations.

The Cambrige Broadband Task Force also felt that the consultant recommendation was inadequate and too general. They did...

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