Pathways to Digital Equity: How Communities Can Reach Their Broadband Goals—and How Philanthropy Can Help

Written by Outreach Manager & Marketing Associate Robbie McBeath

For community leaders striving for digital equity, this guidebook will help communities evaluate and meet specific connectivity needs. We chart three pathways—Access, Adoption, and Use—that together offer a comprehensive approach to guide communities’ digital equity planning and provide structure for implementing effective solutions.

Just as every community has unique features and characteristics, so too do their connectivity challenges. With this in mind, communities are encouraged to follow a variety of steps and best practices as they participate in local and regional education and planning programs to build capacity, increase community engagement, and move toward a more equitable future.

Community plans can serve as a vehicle for the input states, territories, and tribes need as they answer the following questions:

  • How will we engage with the groups that federal broadband programs are designed to help?
  • Which projects will serve communities of color and address historic lack of investment in marginalized communities?
  • Which projects will increase meaningful internet adoption and use in communities?

This publication builds off of the belief that digital equity starts at the local level. As states, territories, and tribes develop digital equity plans, the stories, tools, and resources found here offer both guidance and inspiration for what’s possible when community members have a seat at the table.

A Place for Philanthropy

With so much money coming from the federal government to fund broadband efforts, many philanthropies may be wondering why their involvement is needed.

Although this is a time of unprecedented federal broadband funding, this opportunity, this “Broadband Moment,” requires a lot of work and coordination. State broadband offices—many in their nascency—can increase their capacity through strategic partnerships. This is a place for philanthropy.

In addition to funding, philanthropic organizations have expertise, as well as important connections to valuable stakeholders. Place-based philanthropies’ deep local knowledge and commitment to strengthen communities can be critical in bringing together the diverse coalitions needed to make progress along any of this guidebook’s pathways. Philanthropies with regional or national scope are well positioned to support coordination and share lessons across regions and the country. They can also push for accountability, working to ensure that federal investment meets its aims. This guidebook is filled with stories about how philanthropic efforts have enhanced the work of states and communities to expand broadband access, adoption, and opportunity.