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City Plans To Spend At Least $35,000 On Digital Equity Strategies In 2021

A wireless internet router.

(Pixabay)

The City of Bloomington has announced its Digital Equity Strategic Plan to improve both internet accessibility and affordability for residents in the future.

The plan establishes a grant fund that will support local projects that meet the following goals:

  • Help people subscribe to broadband services
  • Help people secure effective computing devices to effectively use the internet
  • Help people develop the knowledge, familiarity and digital skills needed to secure the benefits of the internet and computers
  • Help people use the internet safely and securely and confidently to engage in digital life
  • Help people mitigate community digital equity gaps identified in the City's digital equity survey

“As I’ve said before, digital connection in the 21st century is a fundamental utility, like water and electricity were in the 20th century,” Mayor John Hamilton said.

In a digital equity survey conducted by the city earlier this year, 50% of 1,080 total respondents said they do not think they have the skills to effectively use the internet. In that same survey, 12% of low-income respondents said they never interact with the internet. 

Digital infrastructure was a major campaigning item for Mayor Hamilton’s reelection bid in 2019.

“Digital infrastructure is hugely important for Bloomington. And not just Bloomington, but the United States is behind the curve in digital infrastructure,” Hamilton said in an “Ask The Mayor” interview in 2019. “We have private providers that are providing access. I continue to believe that we need to work to continue that access.”

During Hamilton’s first term, the city attempted to partner with the Canadian-based company Axia to upgrade its digital services, but the deal fell through in 2017.

At the time Hamilton said Axia and the city both had the same goals, but Axia’s private equity investors were not comfortable with the business model.

But now with Hamilton approaching his second year of his second term, his “Recover Forward” initiative has awarded $35,000 within the grant fund to support local nonprofit partners that try to increase digital resources for the community. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to underline the necessity of fair and effective access for all to digital service,” Hamilton said. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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