Cross-sector regional nonprofit puts early focus on driving community enrollment in FCC’s new connectivity financial assistance programs, commits to helping to provide affordable internet, a computing device and digital literacy to 100,000 adults
June 24, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) - In an effort to help close the substantial digital divide gap that exists throughout Greater Washington, Connected DMV has launched its “Connectivity for All” initiative. Working collaboratively with cross-sector leaders across government, industry, nonprofits, and community organizations, this program aims to help households gain access to reliable internet service, a computing device as well as critical digital literacy and technical skills.
The first phase of this collaborative effort is to aggressively engage communities throughout the DMV to raise awareness and encourage widespread adoption of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) new connectivity financial assistance programs, the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF).
“As ubiquitous as the internet and computers are today, far too many of our residents lack these basic tools, especially in economically disadvantaged and underserved populations,” said Stu Solomon, President & CEO, Connected DMV. “We need to address this urgent challenge if we are going to give our communities the ability to thrive and have hope, especially as they rebuild after a debilitating pandemic. That is why we are harnessing all of the manpower and resources of the region’s stakeholders to help play a part in reshaping our region’s digital infrastructure.”
The ECF is a new $7.17 billion program aimed at helping students connect to classrooms with internet access and computing devices by giving eligible schools and libraries the funds to cover the “reasonable costs of laptop and tablet computers; Wi-Fi hotspots; modems; routers; and broadband connectivity purchases for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons." Registration starts Tuesday, June 29th and ends on August 13th.
The $3.2 billion EBB assistance program is designed “to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” by providing financial discounts to eligible households for the purchase of broadband service and either a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers.
Connected DMV will augment these programs by also providing access to the necessary digital literacy and technical skills needed for people who qualify for it.
“The FCC’s EBB and ECF are urgently needed programs for families and students most in need, but they need a complementary transition component-namely giving people the resources and digital skills necessary to use electronic devices. Our goal is not only to mobilize communities to adopt these beneficial programs by helping them navigate the national application process but also to ensure that we are empowering them at the same time with proper education,” added Solomon.
To date, Connected DMV has engaged local organizations in this effort, including Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (DC OCTO), ultraMontgomery, Fairfax County’s Chief Equity Officer and the Fairfax County Public Library. Connected DMV has held 7 orientation working sessions with local communities throughout Montgomery County, Fairfax County and Washington, D.C. to help advance the adoption of the EBB program. On May 13, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District was working with Connected DMV.
“Access to the internet is essential to our everyday lives—it impacts our ability to work, to learn, to communicate, and to access vital health and human services,” said former Washington, DC Mayor, Tony Williams, now Federal City Council CEO. “But right now, in Greater Washington, the 6th largest region in the United States, home to the federal government and some of the most sophisticated health, research, and technology organizations in the world, there are more than 300,000 households without internet access. Connected DMV, through its Connectivity for All Initiative, is seeking to change that by harnessing the collective power of government, nonprofits, industry, and academia to end the digital divide in our region, starting with a grassroots approach to outreach and enrollment in the Emergency Broadband Benefit. At Federal City Council, we are proud to be part of this coalition and support all residents in getting access to affordable internet service and computing devices in their homes as well as building digital literacy leading to greater economic prosperity,” Williams concluded.
The cross-sector nonprofit CDMV has also partnered with local digital literacy organizations, including Byte Back and Computer CORE, on EBB enrollment and helping qualified individuals make the most of their digital access.
Connected DMV has also taken additional steps to drive EBB awareness. This includes:
Creating orientation materials to educate partners on the EBB program
Creating training materials to help local community partners understand the steps for EBB Eligibility and Enrollment, so they can assist consumers (using materials from the FCC and Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) sites to drive engagement and outreach at a local level)
Publishing a ”Connectivity for All” web site with resources for local partners
Acquiring and configuring a volunteer management platform to help organize outreach and enrollment events
Connected DMV is committed to helping make connectivity a reality for 100,000 low-income adults over the next four years. The organization is currently discussing larger scale efforts such as EBB mass enrollment events across the region. DMV residents interested in volunteering to help bridge the digital divide can learn more at: https://www.connecteddmv.org/c4a Approved last July by Connected DMV’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force, “Connectivity for All” was one of 13 region-wide initiatives approved by the Task Force to address economic renewal and social equity in response to COVID-19. Collectively, these initiatives represent billions of dollars in new opportunities and jobs for the Greater Washington region.
About Connected DMV
Connected DMV is an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure. Connected DMV focuses on initiatives that span local jurisdictions and require public-private-academia-community collaboration to best achieve the dual objectives of enduring economic health and social equity. https://www.connecteddmv.org/
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