By Brian Donoghue
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) hosted a summit as part of their robust technical assistance program. The State Broadband Leadership Network convened in Westminster, Colorado, from August 3rd to 5th. Next Century Cities was invited to share local perspectives on working with state broadband leaders as they work to prepare applications for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act broadband funding programs.
On August 3rd, programming began with a fireside chat entitled “What does it take to connect every household?” and continued with an overview of NTIA programs. State leaders broke into groups based on their region to identify resource constraints, ongoing challenges, and where points of clarification were needed to acquire and disburse federal funds. The summit continued with breakout sessions for technical assistance, application planning, and local coordination, wrapping up with remarks from officials from the Department of the Treasury.
Thursday morning’s sessions provided insights for state broadband leaders on the complexities of mapping, developing digital equity partnerships, and leveraging technical assistance. Jake Varn, who leads the Broadband Education and Training Initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts, moderated a panel entitled “Think Locally, Plan Regionally. The session looked at the benefits of a regional approach to digital equity and broadband deployment in addition to how regional councils and councils of governments can support state efforts on broadband.
Sunne McPeak, President & CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), shared the fund’s origin story and their ongoing efforts to improve broadband outcomes across the state. Amy O’Leary, Executive Director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, shared her team’s work to provide data and mapping support to help their region assess and address the digital divide. Next Century Cities Deputy Director, Brian Donoghue, rounded out the panel by sharing stories from across the country of regional councils and councils of governments partnering with their communities to increase broadband access and adoption. The panel and follow-up Q&A helped state broadband leaders brainstorm ways to partner with their regional councils and councils of government to drive local impacts.
Friday’s programming included breakout sessions where state broadband directors were split into groups based on their tenure, with leaders on each side of their one-year-anniversary gathering to discuss the challenges they’re facing. In the final set of regional breakout sessions, state leaders could meet with federal program staff for one-on-one feedback sessions.
Next Century Cities is grateful to the NTIA team for the leadership and support it provides to state broadband leaders. Acting Director, Communications and Engagement, Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, Katherine Bates, and State Partnerships Coordinator, Lukas Pietrzak have been instrumental in using local perspectives to inform the agency’s work.
Local officials are eager to see Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act broadband funding invested in their communities. NCC will continue to help local leaders build relationships with their state broadband offices in hopes that this next phase of broadband funding will equitably bridge connectivity gaps across the country.