New Report Calls on City Leaders to Take Action to Bridge the Digital Divide

December 9, 2021 - (3 min read)

NLC’s new digital equity playbook offers a data-driven perspective on how local governments can expand access to broadband for all citizens.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National League of Cities (NLC) today released a new report titled, “A Digital Equity Playbook: How City Leaders Can Bridge the Digital Divide,” which calls on local leaders to take action to equip people across the country with the high-speed internet access they need to fully participate in modern society. The resource provides essential guidance for city leaders on how they can expand access to broadband as it becomes more critical.  

“Local leaders have a critical role to play in bridging the digital divide by using their influence, convening powers and direct authority over programs and funding streams for meaningful change,” said NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “Thanks to the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, America’s cities, towns and villages will soon have access to some of the $65 billion in broadband funding allocated, which will empower them to ensure that all residents are able to benefit from online participation and connection.” 

Because of barriers related to broadband affordability, accessibility and skills, more than 150 million people in the United States are living with slow or unreliable internet service, while 42 million do not have access to broadband at all. Nearly half of the Americans who are digitally disconnected are Black, Indigenous and people of color. Older residents are also more likely to be digitally excluded, with 42 percent of American seniors lacking access to broadband at home.  

“We know that Black and Hispanic residents have struggled more than their white counterparts to get access to affordable, reliable broadband in their homes and for their businesses,” said Mayor Van R. Johnson of Savannah, GA. “If we fail to take action to fix this, we’ll only see this inequality deepen further, which will have incredibly harmful consequences as the world becomes more digitally connected and reliant on technology.”  

The Digital Equity Playbook details the federal resources available to cities to fund digital equity projects and tailors publicly available, national level data to fit specific cities’ needs. 

“NLC’s new resource makes existing data useable for cities, so that local leaders can focus on implementing solutions to get high-speed internet to their residents rather than spending their valuable time trying to access and analyze the data themselves,” said Mayor Pauline Cutter of San Leandro, CA

The report includes a broadband needs assessment that city leaders can complete to understand exactly where their community stands in terms of broadband access, compared with other cities and states. It also provides recommendations for local leaders to bridge the digital divide, highlighting more than 40 case studies that give local leaders a sense of creative solutions in use elsewhere that may be applicable to their own communities. To read the full report, click here


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.