On February 8, 2021, Next Century Cities staff met with local and state officials as well as digital equity advocates from the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland, and community organizations. NCC shared opportunities to build on broadband access and adoption initiatives for residents.
The conversation focused on the importance of improving not only broadband access – the availability of the underlying infrastructure necessary for connecting residents – but also addressing gaps in broadband adoption – taking steps to ensure that every resident has the tools and devices they need to actually use the internet.
Seattle, Washington, and Detroit, Michigan, are two cities that were featured as examples of different community-led models for improving digital equity for residents. Additionally, we shared strategies used by other cities across the country including surveying residents about connectivity through offline methods in order to understand digital equity needs and the importance of ensuring that initiatives that specify devices and service speeds remain equitable as technology advances.
It’s so important that local officials and community leaders participate in the policymaking process at every level of government. Community advocates in Baltimore participated in the FCC’s proceeding on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. They have also weighed-in on the State of Maryland’s proposal to establish an Office of Digital inclusion. Importantly, Baltimore mayor released his transition report that highlights his commitment to digital equity. It includes hiring a cabinet level digital equity officer, assembling a digital equity corps to help increase digital literacy, and prioritizing investments in neighborhoods that have struggled with digital redlining.
Outreach to legislators and other policymakers must be part of an ongoing effort to improve broadband policies. Local officials and community leaders who need help scheduling meetings or filing FCC comments can reach out to NCC staff.