Supporting the Increasingly Important Missions of Community Anchor Institutions

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Monday, March 2, 2020

Digital Beat

Supporting the Increasingly Important Missions of Community Anchor Institutions

Jon Sallet

Community anchor institutions should be at the center of any comprehensive national strategy to promote the availability and use of High-Performance Broadband.

Community anchor institutions use broadband to provide essential services to their community, such as education, information access, and telehealth services. But in the 21st century, community anchors’ missions are moving beyond their walls. Libraries no longer deliver knowledge that is housed only within their buildings or the covers of hardbound books. Public education today cannot exist separate from the ability of students and teachers to use broadband connections—both in school and out. And health-care facilities see and monitor patients both in hospitals and in their homes.

More broadband connections are needed in order to reach more community anchor institutions. A 2018 Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition report authored by CTC Technology & Energy found that 60 percent or more of community anchor institutions in the United States lacked robust and scalable connections that fiber networks would provide. For example, in low-density metro areas (with between 363 and 1,669 residents per square mile), the connection rate was only 50 percent. CTC estimates that all unconnected community anchor institutions in the continental United States and Hawaii (outside of Alaska) could obtain fiber connections for between $13 billion and $19 billion and that major savings could be obtained through the implementation of best practices that include competitive bidding processes and aggregated purchasing.

Increasing demand will require more bandwidth even to institutions that are already connected. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) found that the biggest drivers for increased bandwidth demands in classrooms are the number of students’ devices, the use of digital content, online assessments, and streaming content.

In the next decade of the 21st century, ubiquitous broadband and the special role of community anchor institutions will continue to evolve as ubiquitous broadband increasingly empowers such institutions where they are, and where their users are. Public-housing authorities can use broadband to increase education and prevent crime. Community centers can use broadband to promote voter registration and democratic debate. Prisons can use broadband to teach inmates digital skills that they can use to find jobs, which can help reduce recidivism. Churches and houses of worship can create broadband-enabled computer labs to attract young people to religious leaders who can serve as mentors and role models for serving others.

In the coming decade, policymakers should help community anchor institutions to buy competitively priced High-Performance Broadband and connect to their users wherever they are.

What’s needed is a comprehensive approach. Robust, competitively priced broadband to community anchor institutions can promote individual economic opportunity and stronger civic engagement while also spurring competition and lowering the cost of broadband deployment generally to the users of the community anchor institutions as well as to unserved and underserved places more broadly.

An anchor is a source of stability and strength for a boat on the water, which would otherwise drift away in the ever-moving flow of tides. A community anchor institution is a source of stability and strength for a community in flux—sometimes rapid, sometimes tumultuous flux. These are the community institutions that can help America navigate its broadband future in the coming decade.

Jonathan Sallet is a Benton Senior Fellow. He works to promote broadband access and deployment, to advance competition, including through antitrust, and to preserve and protect internet openness. He is the former-Federal Communications Commission General Counsel (2013-2016), and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice (2016-2017). ​


For more on Broadband for America's Future: A Vision for the 2020s, please sign up for updates.

Download a special Benton Report by Jonathan Sallet

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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2020. Redistribution of this email publication - both internally and externally - is encouraged if it includes this copyright statement.

For subscribe/unsubscribe info, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

By Jonathan Sallet.