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Save The Date: Next B4DE Event Will Focus On Pathways To Affordable Connectivity

With the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) upon us, digital inclusion practitioners are encouraged to save the date for the second Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) event of the year.

The popular (and free) virtual gathering – co-hosted by Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) – will be held on June 10, 2024 from 3 to 4:15 PM ET.

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B4DE June Save Date Flyer

Coming on the heels of our last B4DE event in March, the theme for this installment will be “Pathways to Affordable Connectivity.”

It will feature an informative agenda that focuses on what digital equity advocates across the nation are doing to address broadband affordability and the pressing need for creating sustainable solutions for communities. 

You can register for the event here.

As with the previous #B4DE events, the June live stream will once again be sponsored by UTOPIA Fiber and co-hosted by NDIA’s Pamela Rosales and ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell.

Building for Digital Equity: Life After ACP Reprise

If you missed our most recent Building for Digital Equity Livestream – Life After ACP – the virtual event can still be seen in its entirety (below).

The entire event focused on the imminent end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and featured a lineup of speakers who shared on-the-ground perspectives and approaches being adopted at the community level to deal with the broadband affordability crisis in the absence of the popular federal program that has served 23 million Americans since its inception two years ago.

As a bonus, we are sharing links to the speakers slide decks below.

The first of two lightning round speakers, Margaret Käufer – President of The STEM Alliance – gave an overview on the short and long-term work her organization is doing in upstate New York in the face of ACP’s demise. You can find her slide deck here.

The second lightning round presenter Jason Inofuentes – Program Manager for the Broadband Accessibility and Affordability Office in Albemarle County, VA – unveiled an ACP supplement program his office is pursuing and how they see things moving forward. Those slides are here.

The first of the main presenters – Monica Gonzales, Digital Equity Supervisor for Methodist Healthcare Ministries in Texas – gave an overview of what her faith-based nonprofit healthcare organization is doing to address affordable connectivity across the 74 county South Texas region served by MHM. Gonzales’ slides are here.

IN OUR VIEW: ‘Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity’

For decades, ILSR has recognized that communities need to be engaged on Internet access issues to make sure that everyone – from low-income, historically marginalized residents to small businesses and even municipal departments – have the Internet access they need to thrive in the digital age.

Digital equity is essential to help resolve other challenges and the current chasm between the haves and have-nots makes solving many other challenges – like education – more difficult.

To further the quest for greater digital inclusivity, recently ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell put together a panel for Net Inclusion 2024, a conference convened by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) that drew 1300 attendees and was by far the largest digital inclusion conference held in many years of doing this work.

Entitled “Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity,” the panel was originally going to focus on the importance of structural change – and how we cannot ensure everyone is connected by relying solely on the networks already present in neighborhoods that see quite low broadband penetration. Instead, the panel discussion went a bit deeper than that and landed on an observation often made by Joshua Edmonds from Digital C in Cleveland. To paraphrase Joshua, we cannot coupon our way to digital equity.

Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity - Episode 591 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Episode 591 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast features a panel from Net Inclusion that Christopher Mitchell moderated entitled, "Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity." In it, panelists raise difficult questions for the digital equity movement about whether they are on track to achieve their goals - whether the main strategies used today can result in digital equity or are destined to fall well short.

Panelists include Melanie Silva, COO of Hinton & Company in Chattanooga; Shayna Englin, Director of the Digital Equity Initiative at the California Community Foundation; Joshua Edmonds, CEO of Digital C in Cleveland; and Dan Ryan, Vice-Chair of the Enterprise Center in Chattanooga.

The discussion includes constructive criticism of the movement for digital equity, as well as more specific criticism of the decision to move the Net Inclusion conference from Chattanooga to Philadelphia. That decision was entangled with - and justified by - the concerns of some regarding safety in the wake of attempts in the Tennessee Legislature to revoke the rights of Transgender individuals, among others. The panel felt it was important not to ignore those issues as we wrangled with the larger issue of building a better society with more rights and opportunities for everyone.

We hope you find this discussion useful and respectful of the larger movement despite disagreements on some important issues.

This show is 93 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show: please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or see other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Life After ACP Will Be Focus of Next Building for Digital Equity Livestream

As the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) nears its end, our first Building For Digital Equity livestream of 2024 will focus on what digital inclusion practitioners across the nation are doing to ensure that as many ACP recipients as possible do not lose access to high-speed Internet.

The free virtual gathering – #B4DE Life After ACP – will be held on March 20, 2024 from 3 to 4:15 PM ET.

Attendees are encouraged to register now here.  

As the FCC is in the midst of winding down the ACP, which will run out of funds by April, it’s anybody’s guess just how many of the nearly 23 million Americans enrolled in the program will be forced to discontinue their Internet service because they can no longer afford it. But, if the 1,300 digital equity advocates who descended on Net Inclusion 2024 in Philadelphia two weeks ago is any indication, one thing is certain: the national effort to tackle the broadband affordability crisis will continue – even in the absence of ACP.

Sponsored once again by UTOPIA Fiber and co-hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative, the line-up of frontline digital inclusion practitioners will share their outlook and strategies and help provide attendees with a road map in dealing with the imminent demise of the program.

The livestream will be available (and later archived) on Facebook, YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn, with live viewer questions answered by the invited speakers and presenters. We recommend viewing it on YouTube where the live chat will be most engaging. Other questions can be submitted using the #B4DE hashtag on X.

Save The Date: #B4DE Life After ACP

With the nation's premier digital inclusion conference in full swing right now in Philadelphia – and with yet another banner year in broadband in the making – the first Building For Digital Equity (B4DE) livestream event of the year is now set for March 20.

As you read this, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), organizers of Net Inclusion 2024, are engaging with hundreds of digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers from across the nation at the conference. Joining them there in the City of Brotherly Love is a full complement of the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks team. The energy and ideas from the event will inform the upcoming B4DE that will feature the theme: Life After ACP.

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B4DE March 2024 save the date flyer

We encourage you to save the date and register here for the popular (and free) virtual gathering to be held March 20, 2024 from 3 to 4:15 PM ET.

Coming on the heels of our last B4DE event in December, digital inclusion advocates are strategizing around how to tackle the broadband affordability challenge as the FCC winds down the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Building for Digital Equity End of Year Encore

Capping off a banner year in broadband, ILSR and NDIA’s final Building for Digital Equity livestream of 2023 this week had its largest audience to date since the online quarterly series started in 2022.

Digital Equity Unwrapped: End of Year Reflections/The New Year Ahead, sponsored by UTOPIA Fiber, featured timely topics and practical insights from an array of frontline digital inclusion practitioners, teeing up Net Inclusion 2024 – the biggest in-person gathering of digital equity advocates in the nation.

That event will be hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) in Philadelphia, February 13-15, 2024.

If you missed the #B4DE 2023 finale or would like to see it again, you can watch it in its entirety below.

It includes lightning round presentations from the Administrator for Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Nubia Estrada and OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates Policy & Organizing Manager Eric Kim; a preview of this year’s Trailblazer Awards with a special guest appearance by Rebecca Kauma, LA County’s Director of Digital Equity; and an update on the work being done by Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Digital Navigator Ashley Smith.

Putting a bow on the holiday season event was keynote speaker Patrick Messac, Director of the Bay Area-based digital equity nonprofit #OaklandUndivided. Messac connected the dots on the importance of equitable infrastructure investments, mapping, and ways local communities might leverage the FCC’s new rules to address digital discrimination.

Countdown To Last Building for Digital Equity Event Of The Year

Digital Equity Unwrapped: End of Year Reflections/The New Year Ahead is just a week away, as seats are filling up fast for next Tuesday’s Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) event.

The popular (and free) virtual gathering – slated for December 12, 2023 from 3 to 4:15 pm ET – will highlight important milestones in broadband over the past year and take a look ahead for what promises to be another busy year for digital inclusion practitioners across the country.

There’s still time to register for the event here.

Co-hosted by the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the final #B4DE of the year will serve up practical insights on everything from Digital Equity Act planning to how communities are confronting digital discrimination.

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B4DE December 2023 flyer screenshot

The event will be sparked by lightning round presentations featuring Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Administrator for Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Nubia Estrada and OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates Policy & Organizing Manager Eric Kim. Each will give a concise overview of their outreach work with “covered populations.”

Save the Date: Building for Digital Equity #B4DE Holiday Edition

With the holiday season upon us, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) are gearing up for the final Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) event of the year and encouraging digital equity practitioners to save the date.

The popular (and free) virtual gathering will be held December 12, 2023 from 3 to 4:15 pm ET and will feature a holiday-inspired theme: Digital Equity Unwrapped: End of Year Reflections/The New Year Ahead.

You can register for the event now here.

Coming on the heels of our last B4DE event in October, which is still reverberating through digital inclusion circles across the nation, we are excited to follow up with a jolly and informative agenda that will cover:

  • The latest on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
  • Lightning Rounds on digital inclusion work with covered populations.
  • Setting the table on forthcoming Digital Equity Act funding and how communities are preparing.
  • Unpacking digital discrimination and its practical implications.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Patrick Messac, Director of #OaklandUndivided, an equity-based, collective impact initiative launched in Oakland, California.

Cleveland's Two-Pronged Attack To Make ‘Worse-Connected City’ Label A Relic Of The Past

Cleveland, Ohio is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious plan to build a citywide open access fiber network–and deliver affordable fixed wireless service–at minimal cost to city residents. The double-edged proposal aims to bring both meaningful broadband competition–and lower rates–to the long neglected city of 1.7 million people.

Last month, the city announced it had awarded $20 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to Cleveland-based digital equity non-profit DigitalC. Under the proposal, DigitalC will spend 18 months building a fixed wireless broadband network capable of providing locals with symmetrical 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) service for $18 a month.

DigitalC’s fixed wireless service, EmpowerCLE+, launched in 2018 and accelerated its deployment in 2020 to meet the needs of frustrated parents and workers during peak COVID.

Speaking at ILSR’s and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) Building for Digital Equity (B4DE) event last week, DigitalC CEO Joshua Edmonds noted that the EmpowerCLE+ network currently passes 23,500 households in Cleveland, with 2,300 current subscribers. The city’s new agreement with the city should expand the network’s potential reach to 99.9% of homes in Cleveland.

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Joshua Edmonds on B4DE

“We're thankful for the opportunity and we're just really hoping that people use this as motivation to change things within their respective markets,” Edmonds told ILSR in a phone interview.