Institutions that are rooted in their local communities by mission, invested capital, or relationships to customers, employees, and vendors.
Community Anchor Institutions
For all that has changed since the Benton Institute released Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s, this goal remains paramount. In October 2019, we said that connecting our entire nation through High-Performance Broadband would bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, and personal benefits. We said that open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for—and achieving—the American Dream.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
This week, House Democrats unveiled (and later passed) an updated version of the HEROES Act, a pandemic-relief bill the House passed in May, but was never considered by the U.S. Senate. The original Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act included a number of provisions aimed at getting and keeping more people in the U.S. connected and safe during the pandemic.
In the 2020s, public policy should recognize that bits are books, bits are blackboards, and bits are basic tools of medical practice. In other words, broadband networks that run to schools or libraries or health-care facilities are not built to carry only scholastic or literary or medical information.
Policymakers should help enable community anchor institutions to connect to their users wherever they are. Policymakers should recognize that the mission of community anchor institutions is to improve lives. Broadband is a key element in fulfilling that mission. Baltimore’s public school system has created a classroom in a community center to offer training in internet access. Librarians note that the provision of skills training is a natural fit with the historic missions of their institutions—offering a trusted space in which people of all ages can learn in the ways that best suit them.
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.
In communities where too many people have no access to broadband infrastructure, investing in connections to community anchor institutions is an intermediate step that can pay huge public dividends. Imperial County, located in the sparsely populated desert region of southeastern California, is an exciting example. When relying on a single telecommunications provider and its outdated technology, Imperial County school districts, higher-education institutions, and government agencies had limited access to broadband infrastructure.
Addressing community challenges – education, a strong economy, race, and social equity – means that every community institution needs to be part of the solution. And mayors and elected county officials are wise to understand one institution – the public library – brings a unique mix of assets to the table:
Touch: Pew Research data shows that 80 percent of Americans have been to a public library at some point in a given year – either in-person or online.
This report profiles the many innovative options that school districts have pioneered to build or extend wireless broadband connectivity out to student households that cannot afford to purchase high-speed internet access at home.
Pitt, CMU partner with nonprofits, school districts to provide free internet access to city households
The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning will soon beam out more than just the victory lights. Through a new pilot program that combines the efforts of eight universities, research groups, nonprofit organizations and school districts, the Cathedral of Learning will act as a “super node” or hub that transmits Wi-Fi to households around the city.