The Plan for Closing Nevada’s Digital Divide

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Digital Beat

The Plan for Closing Nevada’s Digital Divide

Everything in this plan can be accomplished with robust and dedicated support and buy-in from the many digital equity stakeholders—from elected officials to grassroots—that exist in Nevada.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are currently working on digital equity plans. As they release draft plans seeking public feedback, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is sharing summaries focused on how states define their digital divides and their vision for reaching digital equity.

The Nevada Governor's Office of Science, Innovation and Technology (OSIT) is accepting public comment this month on its draft Digital Equity Plan, the state's first statewide-level attempt to eradicate the digital divide. For broadband internet subscriptions, Nevada is slightly above the national rate. According to the 2021 American Community Survey, over 87 percent of Nevadans have a broadband internet subscription and nearly 94 percent of households have a desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other portable wireless computer.

Nevada's vision of digital equity is that by 2029:

All Nevadans have access to affordable, reliable, scalable high-speed internet, a connected device, and the digital skills and support needed to safely and securely work, learn and thrive.

OIST says, "Our digital equity vision is ambitious and expansive. It is rooted in the reality that our world is becoming increasingly connected and increasingly reliant on connectivity. We must do all we can to ensure that all Nevadans, especially those populations who are traditionally underserved and experience more connectivity barriers, have access to tools, programs, resources, and knowledge to use the internet to learn, earn, and live well."

OSIT has identified six priorities that will guide its digital equity work over the next five years:

  1. Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: Deploy modern, scalable broadband infrastructure to underserved and underserved residential, business, and community anchor locations so that all Nevadans have access to affordable, reliable and scalable high-speed internet access with minimum speeds of 100/20 Mbps scaling beyond 100/100 Mbps.
  2. Adoption: More Nevadans have a home internet subscription and use the internet for dedication, healthcare, workforce development, work, civic engagement, business, and keeping in touch with family and friends.
  3. Affordability: Provide resources and execute strategies that help more Nevadans afford the internet.
  4. Device Access: Provide Nevadans the opportunity to access affordable, quality connected devices.
  5. Digital Literacy: Provide Nevadans access to opportunities to increase their digital skills, including cybersecurity, and access to the technology support needed to use the internet and a connected device.
  6. Awareness and Sustainability: Ensure that leaders across Nevada understand what digital equity is, the challenge of the digital divide, and funding and capacity is in place long-term to close it.

With these priorities in mind, OIST proposes the goal of "Universal Access to Digital Equity" with related objectives and strategies.

Objective 1: Develop and execute a multi-pronged low-income and middle-class affordability and access strategy that leads to increased adoption and residential broadband subscription rates.

Related Strategies:

  • Grow and nurture partnerships with State and local governments, non-profit organizations, public schools and higher education, libraries, workforce, and other community organizations to build awareness for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
  • Provide training to local governments, case workers, social service agencies, and other community-based organizations that work with and provide services to ACP-eligible households to also offer ACP enrollment assistance.
  • Partner with key stakeholders—including counties and municipalities, internet service providers, and engagements with community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, schools, and libraries—in zip codes with low ACP enrollment rates to increase enrollment in ACP by hosting ACP enrollment events.
  • Strategically deploy middle-mile infrastructure to high-cost regions of Nevada to reduce last-mile operating costs and improve retail affordability.
  • Develop and administer a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant deployment program that will effectively and efficiently bring affordable, reliable, and scalable high-speed internet access to every unserved and underserved residential and business location in Nevada.
  • Prioritize affordability when making infrastructure funding decisions.
  • Require service provider participation in ACP as a pre-requisite to receive infrastructure grant dollars.
  • Promote free community Wi-Fi access through public-private partnerships in community centers, senior centers, and other communal areas.
  • Create partnerships to set up free community computer labs with Wi-Fi hotspots, in remote and underserved communities throughout the state.
  • Partner with state and local government agencies to leverage better connectivity and digital equity for the furtherance of broader state and local goals.
  • Develop and deploy a range of short- and medium-term workforce development strategies to create equitable on-ramps to broadband-related jobs and ensure a highly skilled and capable Nevada-based workforce exists to close the digital divide.

Measuring Success:

  • All eligible Nevadans who want to enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program have access to the assistance they need to do so
    • Two state-funded digital navigators provide targeted and tailored ACP outreach and enrollment assistance to each covered population in partnership with local stakeholders
    • Digital navigators plan and host 310 ACP enrollment assistance events in the next two years
    • OSIT will offer ACP enrollment training to government and non-government stakeholders that work with covered populations in all 17 counties by the end of 2024
  • Universal broadband infrastructure access
    • Every unserved and underserved location in Nevada (60,000+ in all) will have access to a high-speed internet service that is affordable, reliable, and scalable by 2029
    • All 600 underserved community anchor institutions in Nevada will have access to a gigabit symmetrical service by 2029

Objective 2: Develop a plan to increase access to affordable connected devices and appropriate technical support with a particular focus on the needs of covered populations that is ready for execution before network construction is complete.

Related Strategies:

  • Create a sustainable device ecosystem that identifies a technology supply chain and manages the procurement, refurbishment, configuration, outreach, distribution, and technical support of devices for low-income Nevadans.
  • Explore public-private partnerships in the creation of a sustainable device ecosystem.
  • Develop a strategy and partnerships to provide on-demand device technical support where Nevadans are. Include consideration for multilingual tech support in the development of the strategy.
  • Partner with internet service providers to develop a plan to expand participation in and the reach of the ACP's device benefit.

Measuring Success:

  • All eligible Nevadans have access to a program that provides low-cost or free devices
    • A sustainable device distribution ecosystem exists with statewide reach that will leverage private and public sector partnerships to provide low-cost or no-cost devices, prioritizing covered populations
  • All Nevadans have access to technical support
    • By 2025, free community tech support is available with translation for the deaf and multiple languages for all Nevadans at a minimum of one community anchor institution

Objective 3: Develop and provide opportunities for all Nevadans to attain the digital skills and literacy, support, and security awareness to use reliable, high-speed broadband service and connected devices for robust participation in our society, democracy and economy.

Related Strategies:

  • Continue to engage communities to identify and understand the digital skills needed.
  • Collaborate with national organizations and experienced local organizations to research and identify how, where, and when to best offer opportunities for Nevadans to learn digital skills, whether formal classes in a community anchor institution or in more informal environments.
    • Draft statewide policies and fund necessary curriculum, professional development, and staff to offer training. Identify and build the capacity of local community-based organizations, such as community centers, senior centers, libraries, non-profit organizations, public schools, and higher education institutions, and others to offer digital skills training to covered populations.
  • Provide technical assistance to internet service providers wishing to fund their own digital skills training programs as a part of their subscription promotion programs.
  • Fund roaming digital navigators who will facilitate training sessions in partnership with community organizations that lack the capacity to offer digital skills training themselves.

Measuring Success:

  • All Nevadans have access to digital skills and digital literacy training in their communities that meets their needs and are offered in diverse settings and manners.
    • By 2025, at minimum, one digital literacy training program exists in each community tailored to the unique needs of that community.
    • Cybersecurity, online privacy, internet safety, cyberbullying, and other best practices are included in all digital literacy training curricula.
  • All covered populations are able to access government programs and resources online in multiple languages and from multiple device formats (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
    • Conduct an audit of Nevada state websites used by covered populations to assess accessibility, inclusivity, user experience, and ease of access. Present findings and recommendations to State Agency Directors and the Interim Legislative Committee on Government Affairs.

Objective 4: What we begin today doesn't end tomorrow

Related Strategies:

  • Develop a leadership awareness and sustainability plan.

Measuring Success:

  • State, local, and community leaders understand what digital equity is.
    • Digital Equity 101 presentations to and meetings with Nevada state legislators, county commissions, city councils, community leaders, and their staffs will be offered in every county by 2024.
    • A minimum of 100 stories of Nevadans crossing the digital divide have been published and shared by OSIT.
  • State, local, and community leaders share the digital equity vision.
    • Digital Equity Champions exist in all communities in Nevada.
    • Model digital equity programs exist in every community that meets the needs of local covered populations.
    • A What Works in Digital Equity guide for funders is available and provides funders with evidence-based strategies to close the digital divide.
    • Permanent, ongoing funding for digital equity has been secured from state, local, and philanthropic sources.

Your Turn to Be Heard

OSIT wishes to encourage all Nevadans—including internet service providers, community anchor institutions, community-based organizations and non-profits, and governments—to share their feedback with OSIT on this plan. Feedback will be accepted until October 20, 2023. Nevadans can also attend any of a series of virtual and in-person digital equity community listening sessions.

More in this series:

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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