Digital Equity: A Critical Need in Southwest NH
- January 30, 2024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2024
Henry Underwood, SWRPC
603-357-0557 or [email protected]
(KEENE) – Access to high-quality internet is vital in today’s world. However, there are many households that lack access to internet services capable of broadband speeds and computing devices like a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is particularly the case for lower income households. For others, knowledge and skills around the use of these services and devices represent a barrier and can result in reduced access to information, social engagement opportunities and healthcare, among other things. New Hampshire is receiving $196.5M to improve broadband infrastructure throughout the state from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In addition to funding broadband infrastructure, the NTIA is providing grants to states and opening a nationally competitive grant program in support of digital equity – the condition where individuals can fully participate in society through the use of high-speed internet, devices, training and other resources.
On Friday, January 12, 2024, New Hampshire’s Digital Equity Planning Initiative hosted a forum to kick-off a public comment period on the State’s first-ever Digital Equity Plan. Among the targeted populations served by the Plan are those of lower-income, veterans, seniors, linguistically diverse, incarcerated and transitioning from incarceration, families of color, those with disabilities, individuals in rural areas, immigrants, and LGBTQI+ communities.
Overarching goals of the Plan include:
- Goal 1: Affordable and Reliable Broadband Access
- Goal 2: Access to Computers and Assisted Devices, Coupled with Technical Support
- Goal 3: Enhanced Digital Literacy Skill Development
- Goal 4: Cyber-Safety Skills Development
- Goal 5: Enhanced Access to Web Portals to Essential Public Resources.
One of the hosts of the session, Dr. Robert McLaughlin, Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Digital Equity said:“the aim is to build capacity that lives on beyond the multi-year federal funding to NH to implement its plan. For example, New Hampshire’s draft state plan currently recommends that the state use some of the federal funds to build the capacity of NH’s schools, afterschool programs, adult education, community colleges, USNH, etc. to design and deliver digital, media and information literacy and cybersafety skills and skills in using AI safely, effectively, and ethically”.
NH’s Digital Equity Plan is available for review at nhdigitalequity.org where a link is available for providing feedback. Comments must be submitted no later than Wednesday, February 7th at 12:00 p.m. For more than a decade, Southwest Region Planning Commission (SWRPC) has supported a variety of broadband initiatives including the Southwest New Hampshire Broadband Plan, the Monadnock Broadband Group, the Monadnock Region Broadband Implementation Guide, and the Monadnock Region Digital Literacy and Access Needs Assessment. To learn more about SWRPC’s role in addressing internet connectivity, visit www.swrpc.org/broadband.