A new guide aims to help local leaders build their cases for the billions of dollars flowing from federal to state governments to support broadband and digital equity across the country.
The guide — nicknamed Acceleration: A Broadband Community Planning Program – is the work of the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, which is a non-profit group that supports media and telecommunications to strengthen democracy. While money flows directly from legislation at the federal level to state government, much of the funding will ultimately go to the local level, with digital inclusion work in particular taking place in communities.
What the Acceleration Program specifically aims to do is help local leaders develop and share their visions for broadband solutions. In other words, it’s a resource that helps local leaders explain and articulate why they need broadband funding, where it would go, and other general infrastructure questions. broadband.
“Good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” said Bill Coleman, author of the guide. “Through Accelerate, we’re giving local leaders knowledge, information and a plan. These are the tools every community needs to extend broadband networks everywhere and connect everyone.”
The Benton Institute has also partnered with the Blandin Foundation on this project, which is an organization that serves rural Minnesota. Funding came from Heartland Forward’s Connecting the Heartland initiative. (Zack Quiintance)
AGENCIES PREPARE TO WELCOME AMERICAN DIGITAL CORPS
Last year, the US Digital Corps was created, a new federal government program housed within the United States General Services Administration to provide a two-year fellowship for technologists. Originally, the initial class was to include 30 fellows, but in response to the high number of applications, this plan was adjusted to include more than 40 scholarship holders in this cohort.
Fellows will be hosted by 13 federal agencies later this month. Some of the projects they will support during their fellowship include working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to modernize digital tools and services used by veterans, working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create a tracking tool behavioral health treatments and working with the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency to help develop risk assessments.
More information on the agencies and projects that will be supported by this fellowship can be found on the US Digital Corps website. (Julia Edinger)
SEVEN COMMUNITIES JOIN THE IGNITE PROGRAM
In somewhat related news, seven more communities have joined the US Ignite program, part of whose mission is to help them identify opportunities for federal funding to support – among other things – local broadband.
The new cities joining this program are Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Duluth, Minnesota; Long Beach, California; Miami; Philadelphia Cream; and San Jose, California. In addition to funding, these cities will also receive expert advice on how to address connectivity and related challenges in underserved areas. The total number of participating communities in the US Ignite program now close to 50.
“Through partnerships and peer-to-peer learning, US Ignite’s goal is to maximize the impact of newly available federal funds,” officials wrote in a statement, “like those in the Broadband Equity program, Access and Deployment (BEAD) recently announced by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).”
The network was able to add these cities thanks to a $214,000 investment from the Knight Foundation. (Zack Quiintance)
NDIA OPENS 2022 DIGITAL INCLUSION PIONEER APPLICATIONS
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has opened the application window for its 2022 Digital Inclusion Trailblazers program, which recognizes local governments that are doing great things for their communities in digital equity.
First launched in 2016, the NDIA Trailblazers program is an advocacy tool for cities and county-level governments. Six indicators are used to determine whether an organization qualifies as a pioneer in digital inclusion and funds at least one full-time position dedicated to digital inclusion; have or develop a digital inclusion plan; participate in an open access digital inclusion coalition; conduct surveys or publish research related to Internet access for local residents; directly fund digital inclusion programs; and take steps to increase the affordability of home broadband.
Qualifying agencies will be featured on the NDIA’s Digital Inclusion Pioneers page, which currently includes 17 jurisdictions from various states with a variety of different sizes. (Zack Quiintance)
COMMUNITY BROADBAND ACCELERATOR COHORT IN OHIO TO SUPPORT COUNTIES
This week marks the launch of the Community Accelerator Cohort – a capacity-building program that aims to help local governments in Ohio expand broadband. As new federal and state funding becomes available, the cohort will offer support to communities to maximize the impact of deploying these funds.
This first cohort will consist of four teams, with 50 representatives from 11 counties: Team Defiance County, Team Shelby County, Team Tuscarawas County and Team Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission. Teams will receive over 30 hours of free expert advice to help them identify broadband goals and understand how available financing options can help them get up to speed.
The program itself is a collaborative effort between BroadbandOhio, Heartland Forward, the Benton Institute, and The Ohio State University Extension Office. (Julia Edinger)
NEW YORK ORGANIZATIONS TEAM UP TO CREATE THE BRONX GIGABIT CENTER
The Bronx Gigabit Center was officially spear over the weekend by a group of organizations: The Knowledge House, Andrew Freedman Home and The Bronx Community Foundation in partnership with CityBridge and the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
The Bronx Gigabit Center will provide free public Wi-Fi through the LinkNYC network, digital literacy training, free access to internet-enabled devices and more. Digital literacy workshops will range from basic computer skills to coding lessons. The center aims to help bridge the digital divide for community members in a parallel effort to that of the Manhattan Gigabit Center which launched in Harlem earlier this year.
Part of this programming for the Bronx community is The Digital Library Project, created by The Andrew Freedman Home. This project will help develop training and workforce programs for digital production. (Julia Edinger)