The United States continues to experience unprecedented growth and innovation in broadband and in the advanced applications and services it enables. While the benefits of increased access and adoption are widespread, barriers like income and geography keep some American communities from taking full advantage of the economic, educational, environmental, civic, and social benefits of broadband access.
In 2009 and 2010, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invested about $4 billion – provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – in 233 BTOP projects benefiting every state, as well as five territories and the District of Columbia. The most significant portion of funding was allocated for Comprehensive Community Infrastructure projects to deploy new or improved broadband to connect households, businesses, and community anchor institutions. In 2011, the FCC created the Connect America Fund with an annual budget of $4.5 billion to extend broadband infrastructure to the millions of Americans who currently have no access to broadband.
In 2016, the NTIA’s BroadbandUSA team began work on the Community Connectivity Initiative to develop new tools that further support communities working to accelerate broadband deployment, deepen broadband adoption, strengthen local policies, and use broadband to advance local priorities.
The Community Connectivity Initiative complements the other tools and resources also available through BroadbandUSA by introducing three new resources for local communities: Community Connectivity Framework, Online Self-Assessment Tool, and Report and Recommendations.
- The Community Connectivity Framework This provides a robust structure to engage local stakeholders in conversations about broadband access and community value that includes 12 goals and more than 100 variables to help local leaders evaluate and plan for access and assets, inclusion and skills, policies and funding, and community applications.
- Self-Assessment Tool This online tool enables local teams to record their findings and integrate those assessments with national datasets on broadband and community. Community teams are encouraged to re-assess regularly and track their progress towards increasing community connectivity, equity and value.
- Report with Recommendations Upon completing the self-assessment, communities receive a report that combines input from the self-assessment with other data sources. The report suggests actions for consideration and includes reference data that allow communities to compare their community connectivity with others.
Experts from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program also were made available throughout the year to provide technical assistance and to connect communities with additional resources, such as best practices, guides and program models. The program's objectives are to support communities as they convene, assess and act to promote local priorities and advance broadband access, adoption, policies and use as well as increase the number of communities actively assessing connectivity impacts and investing to improve broadband outcomes. Part of the long-term value of this initiative will be in the growing community of practice that builds on best practices, documents successes, and provides tools and services, and encourages further collaboration.
Extensive feedback from community, civic, and commercial leaders across the country has affirmed the need for more robust and comprehensive tools to support local efforts to promote broadband access and adoption and to align local investments and policies with community priorities. The 2016 work program relies on extensive field engagement and rapid prototyping to create a national consensus around local measures for broadband.
This year was labeled a design and engagement year; the tools will become available for use in 2017. View timeline. Also, there are PowerPoint presentations from 2016 and other informational documents available.
Next year, look for a revised framework, self-assessment tool and reports based on user feedback in addition to the release of Community Connectivity Framework and Self-Assessment Tool along with rollout, training and expanded technical assistance. BroadbandUSA also plans to continue working with collaborators to support members and constituents as well as monitor and assess results and institute change processes as necessary.
BroadbandUSA will continue to host information sessions and webinars in 2017. For a full list of upcoming engagement opportunities, visit the NTIA website and event links.