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Broadband and Device Adoption

Enjoying the benefits of internet access is directly related to training, equipment and networks. While robust broadband network connections require speed, quality, and capacity that allow for users to accomplish common tasks, the completion of these tasks also demands affordable access to equipment and basic levels of digital literacy. As a result, broadband adoption strategies, designed almost exclusively by local officials, are critical for residents to overcome their respective hurdles and benefit from digital citizenship.

Federal policy operates on the assumption that states and municipalities have the resources to launch and maintain broadband adoption programs wherever infrastructure is available. During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, communities, educational institutions, philanthropic partners, and private sector allies were forced to challenge this assumption. Community-level partnerships were subsequently created to provide service and devices for residents in need. Stil, local governments must work with local organizations to help support digital literacy programs. Making technical support and digital literacy resources accessible to populations in need, including seniors and people with disabilities, is the only way to ensure equal access to the internet.

Like water and electric systems, access to high-speed connectivity affects the quality of life for residents. Recognizing the breadth of its impact, from education to employment to healthcare, NCC advocates for local officials to be able to use broadband funding for access and adoption instead of one or the other. Our work illuminates the many reasons why some communities have been left offline in addition to what programs and policy proposals can help accelerate access to high-speed connectivity.

Build a Community Movement

Posted September 04, 2020

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Community interest in and support of high-speed internet is imperative when attempting to attract investment and competition, and is critical to the long-term sustainability of local projects. Hosting events, engaging the community in conversation, and maintaining high transparency can bolster constituent engagement.

Charlotte, North Carolina began a grassroots campaign called Charlotte Hearts Gigabit when Google Fiber announced that they were considering expanding to the city. Community members were concerned that there wasn’t enough citizen interest in high-speed internet, so Charlotte Hearts Gigabit was formed to begin a conversation in the hopes that it would help attract Google.

Charlotte Hearts Gigabit engaged citizens by talking about how gigabit internet would positively impact individuals and the community. The group discussed specific use cases and hosted in-person events and hands-on demonstrations of applications and technology powered by high-speed internet.

Not only did Google Fiber decide to invest in Charlotte, but AT&T announced plans to offer fiber service in the city, and Time Warner Cable increased its speeds. The robust community interest in high-speed internet encouraged investment in the city and eventually led to a more competitive local market. The initiative has since expanded into a statewide effort – NC Hearts Gigabit – to attract, support, and champion the universal availability of broadband in North Carolina.

Next Century Cities is a non-profit membership organization of over 190 communities, founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Next Century Cities celebrates broadband successes in communities, demonstrates their value, and helps other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit www.nextcenturycities.org .

Even if a project isn’t yet underway, maintaining transparency through consistent updates helps maintain interest and trust. For example, Larimer County, Colorado created a newsletter to share updates about broadband projects. While Fort Collins was considering building a network, the city launched an interactive map on which residents could drop pins where they wanted fiber built, in addition to a broadband project website that could be visited for updates and information. The city also hosted several public outreach sessions to engage citizens.

A grassroots group was also formed in Fort Collins to keep the momentum going. The group Broadband & Beers is a self-described “independent, public outreach group founded… to inform residents and educate decision-makers about bringing municipal gigabit internet service to communities across the country.” The group hosted frequent events at breweries to talk about the city’s path to municipal broadband, and also led a social media campaign that organically reached tens of thousands of voters.

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