Cities Should Bridge the Digital Divide Using Federal Funds

City leaders can proactively address the digital divide in their communities with the federal government funds being distributed to localities to expand broadband access and adoption, according to a report by the National League of Cities.
Broadband internet has evolved from a cutting-edge luxury to an essential utility for participation in daily life. Without access to the internet throughout the pandemic, people wouldn’t have been able to get the latest Covid-19 information from their local government, work from home, participate in school remotely or stay connected with loved ones.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. However, because of barriers in affordability, accessibility, availability, and skills, about 42 million U.S. residents nationwide do not have broadband access and 157.3 million live with slow or unreliable internet service, according to the report.
The funds in the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund are available to help communities close the digital divide. In addition, about $65 billion in federal funding has been allocated toward expanding broadband access and 5G connectivity nationwide in the infrastructure bill that was signed into law by President Biden in November.
Establishing better broadband infrastructure would give more Americans access to high-speed internet, helping close the digital divide existing between urban and rural areas of the country, the report states.
Solutions to the Digital Divide
To effectively use these resources, cities, towns, and villages must be ready to act. While most local leaders are aware of the digital divides within their communities, they may not know the ideal solutions for these inequities.
The NLC launched a new resource called the Digital Equity Playbook: How City Leaders Can Bridge the Digital Divide. This resource can help community leaders evaluate local challenges and build a digital equity plan, NLC says.
It also allows city leaders to complete a broadband needs assessment that helps them understand where their community stands with broadband access when compared to states, peer cities and the country, according to the report.

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