The National League of Cities believes that broadband and other telecommunications services should be as accessible and affordable as possible. Universal broadband access promotes economic development, improves environmental sustainability, enhances public health and safety, and increases educational opportunities for millions of Americans. But having access to broadband without the tools on how to effectively use it can have serious implications for a local government’s ability efficiently govern, deliver services and engage with their constituents.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2011 the United States ranked 15th among 30 developed and developing nations in deploying broadband services. This is a huge departure from where this country stood in the 1990s when it was one of the leaders in providing broadband access. However, access to broadband does not always imply use of it. There is a significant portion of the population that does not have access to broadband (26 million people who live primarily in rural areas), but about a third of all Americans, many of whom do have access, do not subscribe to it, according to a 2011 Federal Communications Commission report.
In many cases, community or municipal broadband networks provide access to pockets of the population that do not have access to any type of broadband service. The implications for not connecting all citizens are huge, as it impacts their ability to access adequate information for healthcare, education, jobs and other vital factors which can promote local economic development and improve quality of life.
Budgets cuts and reductions in city staff require local governments to explore alternative approaches to service delivery and management. Technology solutions offer a way to maximize constrained resources for a variety of local services ranging from public safety to healthcare to infrastructure management.