Through the National Resource Network, the International City/County Management Association released a resource guide to help local governments increase high-speed internet access.
To help bridge the internet access gap, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the National Resource Network (NRN) developed a guide to help cities address related challenges.
The resource, Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age, is freely available and outlines what local governments can do to improve access to high-speed internet, such as first steps, strategies and models for developing a program, finding funding sources, and working with partners.
“We’re hoping that in creating this ongoing discourse on the issue, local communities will be able to get more support from their elected leadership to address this issue,” said ICMA Director of Survey Research Jelani Newton. “And we hope that generally the issue of broadband access will get greater awareness across the country and really globally as we see that both the economy and education are increasingly moving into web-based platforms and programs. We really want to make sure that folks in urban, rural, and suburban areas all realize the importance of access for everyone in this new digital economy.”
Developed as a living document to be regularly updated, the guide is part of NRN’s peer-to-peer learning exchange. The guide’s online format allows users to share their own experiences, interact with other readers, and recommend updates and new resources to be included.
“The resource guide itself is intended to be a document that helps other communities easily find their way to best practices, information, and other resources on addressing the digital divide in their communities,” Newton said. “It’s also intended to be a forum for ongoing communication and collaboration between local governments confronting these issues.”
Six cities that are part of NRN—Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gonzales, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Springfield, Missouri; and Youngstown, Ohio—collaborated on drawing up the resource. Each city developed a team of two administrative or IT leaders, other city employees, and outside partners to write a chapter of the guide. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce also helped with development.
According to a 2016 report from the Federal Communications Commission, 10 percent of Americans currently lack access to high-speed internet. In addition, 39 percent of rural Americans lack broadband access compared to only 4 percent of urban populations—a situation that could hinder access to economic and educational opportunities.
“Just as access to highways, ports, airports, and rail were key to economic competitiveness in the last century, access to broadband is critical for cities and their residents in this century,” NRN Executive Director David Eichenthal said in a press release. “In working with cities across the nation, the Network identified broadband access as an area where cities working with each other could share best practices and achieve real results.”