Ten cities have been recognized this year as Digital Inclusion Trailblazers, Tyler Cooper from BroadbandNow reports. 21 million Americans still lack access to a broadband-level internet connection, and roughly 146 million people do not have access to a low-priced plan for residential wired broadband. These cities are leading the way in bringing unprecedented levels of broadband access and awareness to their residents.
Portland, Oregon: With its reputation for being a progressive metropolis committed to the working lifestyles of the future, 98 percent of Portland residents have access to multiple broadband internet connections and 79 percent have access to fiber.
In 2014, the city’s community established the Digital Inclusion Network, a coalition aimed at “raising awareness about digital equity barriers and developing solutions to bridging the digital divide.” In 2018, Mayor Ted Wheeler instituted a city-wide Digital Inclusion Week.
Austin, Texas: 99 percent of Austin residents currently have access to multiple broadband connections. The city’s Unlocking The Connection program helps bring free broadband internet access to low-income communities in partnership with Google Fiber, as well as provide refurbished computers and digital literacy courses.
The city’s Grant For Technology Opportunities Program also provides financial assistance for upgrading computer labs and improving free, basic web access for all residents.
Seattle, Washington: Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund has helped more than 43,000 residents create resumes, use email services, and take digital literacy courses for the first time. The city is actively engaged in outreach projects such as East African Community Services and Helping Link programs, both of which were awarded grants to replace aging computer infrastructure and provide digital literacy courses to minority communities around Seattle.
Raleigh, North Carolina: While not as widely known for its tech economy as some of the other cities on this list, Raleigh’s local government has been doing excellent work fostering connectivity and inclusion for nearly a decade. Since 2011, Raleigh’s Raleigh Digital Connectors program and its 163 members have taught computer skills to 3,376 individuals and refurbished 892 computers over the past several years.
Bradley Upchurch, the Digital Inclusion Manager at the Raleigh Housing and Neighborhoods Department said that the Digital Connecters program has been instrumental in helping to bridge the digital divide in the city.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Charlotte’s tech scene is growing rapidly, and the city is making a concerted effort to ensure that all its residents can reap the benefits. The goal of the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance is to reduce the digital divide by digital literacy courses, funding opportunities, and other resources for the community to take advantage of.
Boston, Massachusetts: Boston has long been a champion for digital inclusion, helping to establish the Tech Goes Home program back in 2000. The program has trained more than 30,000 people and distributed more than 20,000 new computers to graduates, 80 percent of which have household incomes lower than $35,000 per year.
In 2017, Boston allocated $35,000 in grants to local organizations aimed at bridging the digital divide. New initiatives such as the Digital Equity Fund are working to ensure that all residents have the means and skill sets necessary to thrive in a digital economy.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The city of Philadelphia recognizes that robust connectivity is key to a healthy populace, and this is especially evident when looking at the work they’ve done to foster access within city limits. The city’s KEYSPOT program has established more than 50 dedicated public access centers, providing digital literacy courses and high-speed broadband to more than 80,000 residents every year.
San Jose, California: Already one of the best-connected cities in the U.S, San Jose’s local government has adopted a creative solution to completely bridge their digital divide. Earlier this year, Mayor Sam Liccardo announced the Digital Inclusion Fund, which will help tax wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon deploy broadband and install 5G small cells.
The fund will also provide grants to local organizations seeking to offer digital equity education and resources.
Kansas City, Missouri: Kansas City’s Digital Inclusion Fund aims to provide resources and training to “support local projects that provide computer access; make it easy to get online; help make the internet relevant, exciting, and beneficial for new users; and increase people’s digital skills.“
Additionally, organizations like the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion and Connecting For Good are dedicated local advocacy groups that help low-income residents find free Wi-Fi and computers, as well as offer additional digital literacy training within the city limits.
Madison, Wisconsin: One of the lesser known but rapidly growing tech hubs, Madison is quickly making a name for itself as being a champion for all its residents’ right to access the internet. The city is currently partnering with CTC Technology and Energy to design and implement a citywide fiber network.
Additionally, organizations like Everyone On Madison and DANEnet are centered around providing access to IT services and general computer literacy courses in the city.
Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts
The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.
The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.
“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.
Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.
“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.
Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.
Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”
Not a replacement for real social experiences
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.
“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”
Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption
‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.
PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.
Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.
Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.
In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.
At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.
The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.
“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.
She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.
In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.
In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.
Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says
From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.
Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.
The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.
“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”
The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.
Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”
“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.
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