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The Promise & Challenge of Community Broadband Models

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, March 17th, 2011


While most of us have access to broadband, more than 28 million Americans today live in areas where Internet access is not available. Communities of color bear the brunt of this digital exclusion even as broadband Internet technologies become more crucial to our nation’s social and economic development. With access to broadband affecting more and more aspects of our lives, digital exclusion creates additional barriers to opportunity and sustainable livelihoods for people already constrained by their race, gender and geography.

This report, The Promise and Challenge of Community Broadband Models: Lessons from the National Symposium on Community-Scale Broadband, summarizes some of the key findings and insights of Advancing Community Broadband, a discussion held on December 7, 2010 in Washington, DC. The symposium engaged panelists with a range of expertise to examine the current state of broadband deployment and the emerging opportunities for federal support to community-scale infrastructure models that can meet access and adoption challenges in communities of color and other unserved and underserved areas.

Key Points

  • Broadband Internet is not a luxury, but a new form of digital literacy and mission-critical infrastructure for participation and progress in a twenty-first century society.
  • Ensuring equity in broadband infrastructure buildout requires consideration of the unique needs and challenges in diverse communities, moving beyond simplistic and misleading definitions of universal service to a focus on ubiquity and access as a digital right of all people.
  • Broadband infrastructure development strategies must not treat people and communities as mere consumers of Internet service. Flexibility and a focus on service, content and applications are vital to ensuring that broadband technologies allow for local adaptations, widening of opportunity and community empowerment.
  • Public investments in broadband must recognize the value of diverse ownership models as a means of reaching full ubiquity in infrastructure and service penetration.
  • Promoting genuine competition is vital to ensuring broadband services are affordable and progressively moving toward the highest standards of speed and capacity.
  • Communities and local governments have the right to build their own networks and provide quality Internet services. These local initiatives should be eligible for support from the Universal Service Fund in order to meet local needs and support innovation.

Many communities of color, low-income neighborhoods and rural areas face challenges in attracting private investment to connect their businesses, residences and civic institutions to high-speed data networks. To achieve the national goal of universal access to broadband, these communities should have the public support necessary to build their own paths to the digital future.

We hope that this report will continue and expand the discussion that began at the symposium on community-scale broadband and we invite you to continue to engage with us around these important issues.

Download full version (PDF): The Promise & Challenge of Community Broadband Models

About the Center for Social Inclusion
“The Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) works to unite public policy research and grassroots advocacy to transform structural inequity and exclusion into  structural fairness and inclusion. We work with community groups and national organizations to develop policy ideas, foster effective leadership, and develop communications tools for an opportunity-rich world in which we will all thrive. In recent years, CSI has undertaken research, policy analysis and public education to draw attention to the need to invest in broadband that produces health, educational and economic benefits for communities of color and the tremendous progress that such investment could create for our nation as a whole.”

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