Equitable Broadband in Urban America

The Equitable Broadband in Urban America Research Group is a multi-city,  multi-methods project that will offer actionable insights into how broadband in urban America can be improved and how state and federal policymakers, local governments, and digital equity champions can continue to build digital equity in these communities. Research teams in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Seattle will delve into the specific dynamics and challenges with reaching universal broadband and digital equity in their cities. Collectively, their work will speak to the impact of redlining, lack of affordable service, and highlight the efforts of community organizations and coalitions in addressing urban broadband challenges. The researchers are also applying a range of approaches – historical, spatial, and qualitative analyses – to this work which will produce academic articles, toolkits, podcasts, and zines.

  • In Chicago, Kyla Williams Tate, Director of Digital Equity in the Cook County Office of the President, will study the relationship between trust, digital discrimination, and digital adoption among the descendants of the Great Migration.

  • In New York, Monique Tate, Co-Director of Community Tech NY (CTNY), will focus on the Community Tech Labs as an organizing space to build digital equity. 

  • In Philadelphia, Dr. Pawel Popiel and Dr. David Elliot Berman, Postdoctoral Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania, will examine the implementation and impact of private subsidized broadband programs, focusing on the work of Digital Navigators.

  • In San Antonio, Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, PhD Candidate in Applied Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, will chronicle the city’s history of digital redlining and the digital inclusion efforts by public-private partnerships, coalitions of non-profit and community-based organizations, and a regional digital equity network. 

  • In Seattle, Esther Jang, PhD Candidate in Computer Science at the University of Washington, and a lead instructor with the Tribal Broadband Bootcamps, will investigate and document the Seattle Community Network (SCN) as a “teaching and learning network” and a sustainable model for community internet access. 

The $42.5 billion investment into broadband infrastructure under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is expected to be largely directed to rural communities where infrastructure needs are more starkly apparent. We hope the work of these researchers will ensure that urban broadband needs are better understood and addressed.