WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Resource Network (NRN) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) today released Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age, the first broadband resource guide developed by and for local governments to address the digital divide in their communities.
An NRN member, ICMA collaborated on the project with municipal managers from six NRN cities, including: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gonzales, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Springfield, Missouri; and Youngstown, Ohio; as well as representatives from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In coordination with the guide's release, NRN will host a complimentary broadband access webinar on January 12, 2017, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. EST to engage communities across the country that seek guidance in partnership and training. Register here to attend the webinar.
"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," said NRN Executive Director David Eichenthal. "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."
One in 10 Americans does not have access to high-speed Internet, and 39 percent of rural Americans lack broadband access, according to the Federal Communications Commission's "2016 Broadband Progress Report." In 2016, as a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's mandate to increase Internet access for low-income Americans, the NRN brought together representatives from six of the more than 32 current Network cities to transform their own experiences with broadband access into strategic guidance for other communities.
"With broadband access, local governments and the residents they serve gain the capacity to communicate more effectively with one another, to grow economically, and to attract talented individuals to the community," said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O'Neill, Jr. "Local governments can use this technology to enhance community engagement, service delivery, and economic development; while residents can participate and interact with their local governments in ways that could only have been imagined a few years ago."
Through Access and Inclusion in the Digital Age, NRN and its partners created an online community where local leaders can draw upon the work of those who have gone before them, tapping into peer-pioneering cities and global supports from nonprofit organizations. The resource guide outlines key steps for local governments to take in enhancing broadband access. It also provides useful information to support communities in engaging with potential partners, finding funding, and measuring and managing the performance of new or existing programs and initiatives. As a living document, it is a dynamic repository of best practices and will be updated regularly with new information from the original six cities, as well as any other communities in the process of expanding broadband access and digital inclusion.
The guide outlines the following key strategies for success in expanding community access to reliable high-speed Internet service:
- Seek partners and resources: Getting the right individuals and groups together to work on the complex social and technical issues involved in expanding access is an important first step.
- Understand barriers and limitations: Identifying the issues helps communities understand what's possible and what needs to be done.
- Engage the community: Public engagement informs/inspires prioritization and ensures the initiative meets the community's needs.
- Select the best model: After assessing the landscape and engaging the community, local governments should assess the viability of possible models, including municipal broadband or private Internet service providers.
- Identify a manager: Communities need a lead organization to drive the implementation and ensure that the realities of the new network live up to its promise.
- Measure outcomes and share successful practices: Information sharing is critical for communities to understand lessons learned and best practices.
ICMA also recently published a related article, "Advancing Local Broadband Access: Six Strategies for Success," in the November 2016 issue of its flagship publication, PM (Public Management) magazine. The article highlights the strategies developed by the six NRN cities referenced above to guide jurisdictions that seek to advance high-speed Internet access and digital literacy in their communities.
ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government worldwide. The organization's mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build sustainable communities that improve people's lives. ICMA provides member support, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, and training and professional development to nearly 11,000 appointed city, town, and county leaders and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA's members affect millions of individuals living in thousands of communities throughout the world, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas.
About the National Resource Network
NRN is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) technical assistance initiative, developed by the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, which brings together private sector and non-profit organizations to work with economically challenged cities nationwide and develops and implements solutions and strategies that increase economic competitiveness and builds operational capacity. Comprised of local government and urban development experts, the Network is the only federal technical assistance program to cut across all operational, programmatic and policy areas relevant to city recovery efforts. Since its inception, NRN has partnered with 32 cities, and an additional 18 cities are currently in the assessment process.
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