Play 1 – Find or Form a State Broadband Coalition
Coordinated statewide broadband or digital inclusion efforts have the power to leverage resources, capacity, and expertise across multiple state agencies to create a greater collective impact than might be possible by any individual agency. Additionally, statewide efforts may lend legitimacy and leadership support to digital equity and inclusion initiatives, ensuring that issues of broadband access, affordability, and adoption are prioritized across multiple state agencies and sectors including education, workforce development, healthcare, public safety, and economic development. Recognizing the value of a coordinated statewide effort, many states and territories have established state broadband or digital inclusion coalitions. Education leaders, institutions, and agencies are well-positioned to lead and contribute to broader state or local broadband or digital inclusion coalitions, task forces, or initiatives working to implement solutions to address the digital divide – and should be represented in these groups. Implementing long-term solutions that address the digital divide will require a coordinated effort across the local, state, and federal levels.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which states have statewide broadband coalitions?
The State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN) is a community of state broadband initiative leaders convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Fifty states, the District of Columbia and five territories participate in the SBLN and have state broadband efforts of varying levels of formality and statewide coordination (e.g., state broadband office, task force, commission, or authority to coordinate broadband efforts). Some of these state broadband efforts are run from the Governor’s office, while others operate out of state offices for housing, community development, information technology, or economic development. Visit the SBLN website for more information about state broadband efforts and to identify state broadband contacts: https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/states.
2. What agencies or organizations might be represented in a state broadband coalition?
The membership of each state broadband coalition, task force, or working group will be different; however, the following agencies, organizations, or roles have been represented across current state broadband efforts:
|Sector||Possible Member Agencies, Organizations, Individuals|
|Education & Libraries||
|Healthcare & Family Services||
3. How can the education sector contribute to the state discussions?
As representatives of educators, learners, and families from PreK-12 through Postsecondary Education and Adult Education, education leaders are uniquely positioned to represent a diverse range of perspectives and needs from across the state. As trusted community members, schools and postsecondary institutions are well-positioned to gather data on access and adoption, share information about state broadband programs, and support digital literacy and digital skills training in local communities. Schools and postsecondary institutions may also be able to unlock federal funding dedicated for schools, leverage school building infrastructure for placement of cell towers or antennas or may have existing school broadband infrastructure that can support broader community networks. Since the technology needs of a student may be specialized (e.g., higher upload speeds, full-screen computing devices, keyboards), education leaders should take part in the conversations and advocate for solutions that address these needs.
Play in Practice
The Nebraska Information Technology Commission (NITC), established by the Nebraska legislature, provides advice, strategic direction, and accountability on information technology investments in the state. To achieve its mandate, the NITC relies on coordination and collaboration to influence a wide range of information technology issues. The NITC is assisted by six advisory groups: Community, Education, eHealth, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), State Government Councils, and the Technical Panel. The Education Council is a 16-member advisory committee that includes representatives from K-12 (e.g., educators, administrators) and Postsecondary education (e.g., state colleges, community colleges, University of Nebraska System). The Education Council advises the NITC on issues related to education information technology needs, goals, and policy. More information on the NITC Education Council is available at: https://nitc.nebraska.gov/education_council/index.html.
New Mexico established the New Mexico Homework Gap Team (NM HGT), a collective effort to coordinate statewide activities in support of narrowing the Homework Gap. The team is led by the New Mexico Public Education Department, the Department of Information Technology, and others including the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, Public Schools Facility Authority, Department of Cultural Affairs, State Library, Santa Fe Indian School, Navajo Nation, and Community Learning Network. The NM HGT collaborates to identify broadband gaps, clarify issues, and provide recommendations (e.g., legislation, funding, construction, regulation) to support the New Mexico Broadband Strategic Master Plan. More information on the New Mexico Homework Gap Team is available at: https://www.communitylearningnetwork.org/nm-homework-gap-team.html.
Checklist & Key Questions
- Join an existing statewide broadband coalition.
- What formal or informal coalitions or initiatives already exist?
- Is the education sector represented in the existing coalition? If yes, reach out to the education representative(s) and learn about the key priorities of the group and how to contribute. If not, why not?
- What resources (e.g., school building infrastructure, school networks, funding); data; expertise; awareness (e.g., needs of teachers, students, families); or outreach support can you provide as an education representative?
- Convene a new coalition if one does not already exist.
- What are the goals for the coalition? What will the coalition accomplish?
- Who should be involved? Is the committee representative of the community? Along with putting out a call for members, consider targeted outreach (e.g., to community-based organizations that support families experiencing homelessness).
- What resources, expertise, and perspectives will each coalition member contribute? What’s missing? What role will each coalition member fill?
- Is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between coalition member agencies or organizations necessary?