Tag: "digital divide"

Posted September 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

As broadband continues to become integrated into more aspects of life, researchers will find new ways to study and document the effects on modern society. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), in partnership with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, recently created a searchable database of resources to help those seeking information on issues related to digital inclusion. The Broadband Research Base is ready to assist researchers, advocates, and community leaders.

Organizing the References

According to the NDIA, the collection went live in mid-August and already contains more than 70 reports, studies, and journal articles that “address the impact of broadband and digital inclusion on community and individual well-being.” The tool is an ever-growing resource and the creators are accepting suggestions to help expand the database.

Users can search the Broadband Research Base to find desired documents by several methods, including title, keyword, broad category, and more specific subcategory. Tags can also help users discover what they’re looking for and each reference has a link to the source.

Check out this excellent tool from the NDIA and the Brookings Institution and help find more excellent resources to add to the Broadband Research Base. Submit your organization's work and grow the database to help share knowledge about broadband and its impact on society.

Posted August 28, 2019 by htrostle

In July, the Community Affairs Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide, a report that touches on Internet access, adoption, and affordability. Overall, this is an insightful primer on the digital divide and how banks can help. 

The CRA and the Digital Divide

Banks have a responsibility to invest in disadvantaged communities under the Community Reinvestment Act. The report broadly outlines the state of high-speed Internet access, including the differences between rural and urban access problems, and explains why the digital divide remains so persistent.

Part of the problem is that our data on Internet access and adoption is woefully lacking. The report includes a section on how FCC data overstates coverage and compares it to the ways Microsoft has attempted to verify actual home Internet connections: 

“The FCC’s data measure availability of broadband while the Microsoft data measure broadband usage. The company shared its analysis with the FCC, which is looking at how it might improve its broadband measurements. While the FCC says 24.7 million Americans lack access to broadband, Microsoft found the actual number was 162.8 million.” (P. 26)

Another related problem that the report identifies is that the technology needed for high-speed Internet access seems to be constantly changing. Companies do not continue to invest consistently in rural or low- and middle- income communities, leaving both with last-generation networks. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we've learned from years of research that fiber connectivity has the ability to meet current and future needs.

Closing the Digital Divide

Expanding high-speed Internet access can expand access to banking. The report notes that:

“Among low-income households, research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows that lacking Internet access has a higher correlation to being unbanked than a variety of other characteristics, including employment status and race.” (P. 11) 

Supporting community networks is one way banks can improve high-speed Internet access, and our research appears throughout the report. One of the example explained...

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Posted June 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Finding the right moment to move forward with a publicly owned broadband infrastructure investment isn’t always cut and dry. Davis, California, has considered the possibilities for the past three years and at the June city council meeting, decided to assign city staff the task of examining the details of an incremental fiber optic network deployment. “We can’t approve a municipal fiber network today,” Councilman Will Arnold said, “but we can kill it, and I’m not willing to do that.”

Broadband Advisory Task Force

Davis’s Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF) recommended to the city council that Davis move forward with developing a fiber optic network. The task force has examined the issue since it was formed in 2016, at the urging of citizens who formed a group calling themselves DavisGIG. The group’s main purpose has been to encourage the city to begin the process of examining the possibility of developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

The city hired Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting, which worked together to deliver results of a feasibility study with recommendations in March 2018. They concluded that a citywide build out funded completely with one bond issue wasn’t feasible. In their opinion, Davis would require additional funding, such as sales tax or property taxes. Citywide deployment, which consultants estimate to be around $106.7 million, would be high due to poor pole condition, labor costs, and high housing density. An incremental approach, however, is a goal that Davis should consider.

Read the feasibility study here [pdf].

logo-davis-ca.jpgStill Needed

The consultants found that Davis would certainly benefit from a publicly owned fiber network. A significant digital divide problem and lack of choice in Davis has residents and businesses caught with few options. After examining possible models, Finley and CCG suggested that...

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Posted May 15, 2019 by lgonzalez

Local communities continue to search for ways to tackle the digital divide and in San Francisco, the city is making strides by working with a local Internet access company. The City by the Bay and ISP Monkeybrains have adopted a new model to bring high-quality connectivity to residents in public housing. The approach not only creates new opportunities for people who were once denied economic and educational opportunities, but does so in a way that is financially self-sustaining. With modest maintenance and start-up costs, Monkeybrains and San Francisco has found a way to bring the same high-speed Internet access to low-income households at an affordable rate. Read our new report, A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig, to learn how the partners found a way to shrink the digital divide in public housing facilities.

Download A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig [pdf], here.

Lessons for More Communities

Every community, regardless of population, must contend with digital inequity. As local communities continue to recognize all residents’ need for high-quality Internet access, models such as the approach developed by Monkeybrains and San Francisco spark further innovation. 

From Christopher:

“These households need Internet access to search for jobs, improve their education, access government services, and for many other reasons common to modern living. Monkeybrains' work in San Francisco shows how smart one time investments in public housing can guarantee high-quality access to all in public housing.”

Posted May 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Local communities continue to search for ways to tackle the digital divide and in San Francisco, the city is making strides by working with a local Internet access company. The City by the Bay and ISP Monkeybrains have adopted a new model to bring high-quality connectivity to residents in public housing. The approach not only creates new opportunities for people who were once denied economic and educational opportunities, but does so in a way that is financially self-sustaining. With modest maintenance and start-up costs, Monkeybrains and San Francisco has found a way to bring the same high-speed Internet access to low-income households at an affordable rate. Read our new report, A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig, to learn how the partners found a way to shrink the digital divide in public housing facilities.

Download A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig [pdf], here.

A few national ISPs offer programs for households considered low-income, but those services only offer slow and typically unreliable connections. The program that Monkeybrains and San Francisco has created provides high-speed Internet access to public housing units at no cost to the end user. In some cases, the ISP does receive a monthly payment of $10 per unit from building management. No matter what, each user receives the same level of customer service and support as those who pay standard monthly rates. From the beginning, the goal was to bring the same level of service to subscribers in public housing as Monkeybrains subscribers throughout the city.

We spoke with Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll from Monkeybrains back in 2017, when we first learned about the plan, which was still being developed. You can listen to episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast...

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Posted April 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

Erie County, New York, and its county seat of Buffalo have had high-quality Internet access on their minds for several years. Now, County Executive Mark Poloncarz proposes a project to deploy middle mile infrastructure to attract local ISPs and generate competition. We're pleased to see county leadership taking another shot at better connectivity for the people in Erie County, but we hope community leaders will approach the project realistically; in order to bring high-quality Internet access to everyone, the county may need to play a more significant role in the future.

A Lingering Problem, A Possible Solution

Even though it's the county seat, a 2015 report from Erie County's Municipal Broadband Committee noted that the Buffalo Metropolitan Area's peak speeds ranked 294th in the state and that areas existed where there was no option for Internet access of ANY kind. The results horrified elected officials at the time; they issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to study the feasibility of a county-wide publicly owned broadband network. 

After a survey of residents and businesses, and an assessment of the current situation in Erie County, the final feasibility study recommended several actions, including a middle mile open access network investment. You can review the entire 2017 feasibility study here.

Problems with lackluster and even nonexistent Internet access have lingered in Buffalo and Erie County throughout the past two years. Community leaders have considered the feasibility study and given providers Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T, CenturyLink, and others operating in the region the chance to improve services to the entire county.

Now, County Executive Mark Poloncarz has announced that enough is enough and the digital divide won't narrow unless the public takes control. Taking the recommendation of the 2017 feasibility study to heart, Poloncarz has announced that he'd like Erie County...

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Posted April 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Net Inclusion 2019 is happening in Charlotte, North Carolina, and if you aren’t there you can still watch the action online through the livestream from National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).

In addition to bringing the live action, NDIA is providing a list of the livestreamed content directly below the video on the YouTube page. For a full agenda, check out the Net Inclusion website

If you’re in North Carolina at the event, you can make Christopher’s panel, “Infrastructure Projects that Include Affordability, Digital Literacy, and Public Access.” He’ll be moderating a panel with Garrett Brinker from Neighborly, Deb Socia of Next Century Cities, Geoff Millener of the Enterprise Center Chattanooga, and Will Aycock, General Manager of Wilson, North Carolina’s Greenlight Community Broadband Network. The panel will discuss municipal network infrastructure and efforts to bring high-quality connectivity to people living in affordable housing.

Watch the livestream:

Posted March 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last year, city leaders in Hillsboro, Oregon, decided to pursue a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network for all premises after studying the possibilities since 2014. Crews have started construction and the city has now introduced the name of its newest utility, HiLight.

Equity Matters

Throughout the process of exploring municipal network possibilities, community leaders in Hillsboro have kept digital equity high on their list of priorities. In order to meet one of their goals — to bring high-quality connectivity to lower income neighborhoods — one of the first areas of the city where HiLight will deploy is in Southwest Hillsboro and the premises around Shute Park. Connectivity rates in these areas are the lowest in Hillsboro, where many residents qualify as lower income.

In order to expedite deployment, the city has decided to start construction in the South Hillsboro area, a section of town where new roads and homes are being built. By taking advantage of the current excavation, the city’s dig once policy will ensure conduit goes in the neighborhood now, which will greatly reduce the cost of deployment. Hillsboro will also install conduit whenever roads are excavated in other areas of town to prepare for future deployment.

logo-hilight-hillsboro.jpeg By late 2019, HiLight should be connecting residents and businesses to the network. They plan to take an incremental approach to connecting all areas of the city and will strategically consider locations of businesses, busy travel corridors, and schools as they decide where to expand. Hillsboro will invest approximately $4 million toward deployment per year for the next seven years and anticipate subscriber revenue will cover operating costs.

Schools as A Building Block

Earlier this year, Hillsboro and the Hillsboro School District (HSD)...

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Posted March 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

In recent years, North Carolina has become a legislative broadband battleground in the war to regain local telecommunications authority. This legislative session, support from Governor Roy Cooper, outspoken State Legislators, and North Carolina media may make an impact on state law.

Let's Fix This

In 2015, the FCC preempted restrictive state laws which set dire limitations on municipal network expansions, but the state chose to back telecom monopolies over citizens’ need for better connectivity. The state took the FCC to court and won, which meant North Carolina’s laws won’t allow places such as Wilson to help neighbor Pinetops with high-quality Internet access. In addition to preventing local community networks from expanding, requirements and regulations are so onerous, that the state law is a de facto ban on new networks.

Lawmakers such as Republican Rep. David Lewis has put broadband development among the top of their priorities list. In a letter to constituents, Lewis wrote:

High-speed Internet access has transitioned from a luxury to a necessity of our 21st-century economy...It is needed for economic growth in North Carolina, yet many rural communities throughout the state do not have access to broadband services because of their under-developed infrastructure.

In order to get fiber out to people across the state, governments — federal, state, county and local — should be able to invest in fiber infrastructure, and in turn, lease them to the service providers who sell access to the consumer. We have to do something so that the people of this state can be connected to our ever-evolving world.

Cooper, a Democrat, presented broadband deployment in rural areas at the top of his agenda during the State of the State Address. According to a WRAL.com report, both Republican and Democrats strongly supported the proposal with intense applause. The positive bipartisan reaction to his comments reveals that policy makers from both sides of the aisle recognize the critical nature of high-quality Internet access for their constituents.

Last year, the state developed the Growing Rural Economies and Access to Technology (GREAT) Program, which made $10...

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Posted January 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

Spring seems like a lifetime away as we hunker down in our frozen Minneapolis office, but we know it will be here sooner than we expect and with it will come Net Inclusion 2019. The event will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, this year April 1st - 3rd and if you haven’t already started making plans to be there…why haven’t you started making plans to be there?

Putting Digital Inclusion on Everyone's Mind

Each year the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) puts on the event to bring together a broad range of people and organizations involved in digital equity. In addition to policy experts and community practitioners, representatives from Internet access providers attend, along with advocates and folks interested in sparking grassroots movements in their local communities. Some of the issues they discuss include:

  • Policy at the federal, state, and local level that affect digital equity
  • Support — including financial— aimed at digital inclusion programs
  • Digital inclusion best practices from around the U.S.

This year, the event will be held in Charlotte at the Harris Conference Center. Day One — April 1st — will include a series of pre-conference events. By the second day of the conference, the itinerary will be filled with interactive sessions and the final day will end at 3 p.m. on April 3rd. If you register by February 14th, you can receive a discount on your tickets and on hotel bookings at the Omni hotel.

There will be a lot going on, so check out the schedule to plan your participation. You can also see a list of speakers (Christopher will be there).

Learn more at the NDIA registration page.

Are You An Affiliate? Ligtning Round!

NDIA is also accepting special applications from digital inclusion initiatives for 25 - 30 Lightning Round presentations. Each organization accepted will have four minutes to present their initiative and a maximum of five slides. If you’re interested, learn more at the NDIA website; the deadline to...

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