More and more, today’s communities are striving to become digitally inclusive. They’re offering affordable, quality Internet services and working with anchor institutions in all sectors to ensure residents get the access they need. It’s a trend taking hold across the country. Hundreds of municipal broadband locations are already in place, and many now view Internet access the same way they do basic services like power and water – essential for communities to thrive.
Here are some specific reasons these programs are being considered and implemented nationwide:
- Everyone needs affordable Internet access. From searching for a job, to applying for government benefits, to getting an education – the Internet has become critical to getting things done. Yet, high costs and lack of competition make coverage for all elusive. In fact, 96% of Americans have access to only a few providers and 1 in 10 have no access at all. 
- Schools must be smarter. To say that technology is an important to education is an understatement. Internet access is a key piece of the infrastructure needed to deliver 21st century learning and meet the bandwidth requirements for Common Core state testing. It also keeps teachers, parents and students connected like never before.
- Many look to the library for access.Internet access is now one of the most sought after public library services and is used by nearly half of all visitors.  For those in need, it’s especially critical because it enables them to complete online tasks like school assignments, job applications and government aid forms.
- The health of the community depends on it.From Electronic Health Records, to remote diagnostics and monitoring, to educational opportunities, online tools are helping doctors and patients connect in critical ways. Additionally, the new Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act requires people to go online to purchase health insurance.
- It brings business and jobs. Being connected helps communities attract and retain innovative individuals and businesses. This means more jobs for residents and more overall stability for the area.
- Public safety improves.Online systems help emergency response teams get vital information more quickly, so they can react to accidents and disasters faster. They also help residents stay informed during emergencies.
- It makes financial sense. Broadband can be surprisingly cost-effective, especially for anchor institutions clustered together in town centers. Because these organizations serve so many, the cost per person is typically low.
Clearly, community broadband has the potential to bring important benefits. Yet, many leaders find themselves asking: Where do we start? The answer lies in communication – talking to residents and anchor institutions and creating a plan to address their needs. Resources like this Community Partnership and Collaboration Guide from Webjunction can provide a great framework for getting the ball rolling.
What benefits could community broadband bring to your residents?
 White, Charlie (2012, Feb 5). ”Digital Divide: If You’re Reading This, You’re One of the Lucky Ones [INFOGRAPHIC],” Retrieved September 3, 2013 from ” http://mashable.com/2012/02/05/digital-divide-infographic/
 “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries,” http://www.imls.gov/pdf/OpportunityForAll.pdf, Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2010.