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Even When it Comes to Advancing High-Capacity Broadband, Local Community Resources Are Essential to Meeting Civic Needs

Elijah Labby

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Screenshot of Joaquín Torres, director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, from the webcast

May 15, 2020 — Community support is vital for local business longevity amid the coronavirus, said panelists in a US Ignite forum Thursday.

Panelists discussed the measures that their communities and organizations took to support small businesses and the common good during the coronavirus pandemic.

US Ignite is a national non-profit seeking to promote high-capacity broadband. The organization’s Smart Gigabit Communities project — of which the discussion was a part — is a network of dozens of communities developing applications for “Smart City” services.

Joaquín Torres, director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said that the city’s steps have been effective, with a main focus being bank transparency.

“In terms of our engagement with the financial institutions, [we’re trying] to make sure that they’re being very clear about how they’re prioritizing their clients,” Torres said.

The city is also facilitating transitions for those who do not feel that their bank is treating them fairly.

Additionally, Torres said, community-based financial institutions are essential in providing assistance and awareness of government stimuli.

Sybongile Cook, Director of Business Development & Strategy as well as Planning and Economic Development for Washington D.C., echoed Torres’ sentiments.

As U.S. officials weigh reopening, there is a raging debate over whether increased death rates are necessary for the economy to survive. These discussions are critical, Cook said, and must take care to not be shortsighted.

“What does recovery look like not just three months from now, not 18 months from now, but three, four, or five years from now?” she asked.

Torres said such decisions required a boots-on-the-ground approach, adding that when city officials establish a relationship with their communities they are better equipped to make good decisions.

“If you do not have those relationships prior to this time, you are already behind the curve…,” he said. “If you’re not paying attention to the very specific needs of our communities on the ground, then you’re not meeting their needs. And if we’re going to do that, we need to maintain that dialogue.”

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