Austin (TX): A Model for Cities Working to Narrow the Broadband Gap?

In Austin (TX), population 885,000, some 55,000 residents say they don't use the Internet — at all. But the City Council refuses to accept this. “It is critical that every one of our residents has access to digital and communications technology, and understands technology and its relevancy to their daily lives, whether for helping with their kids’ homework, or looking for jobs, getting access to health information or accessing online government information,” the council writes. And the city’s Office of Digital Inclusion is charged with making that vision a reality by working with a range of private-sector and nonprofit providers to ensure connectivity and encourage Internet use.

Austin’s effort has drawn kudos as a model of how municipalities can help to narrow the broadband gap, recently winning a Digital Inclusion Leadership Award from the National League of Cities. “To have a city office dedicated to this, that is a pretty strong indication of the seriousness that they are giving to it,” said Colin Rhinesmith, author of [The Benton Foundation's] Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives and a senior lecturer at Boston's Simmons College.


Austin (TX): A Model for Cities Working to Narrow the Broadband Gap?