September 11, 2018
Thank you giving me the opportunity to provide you with an update.
The work that was done as part of the Broadband Task Force has provided the City with valuable data. While the Task Force recommended that a Municipal Broadband Feasibility Study be initiated as a Phase 2, the City will be focusing on an important topic included in the Task Force’s recommendation, namely digital equity. Our efforts will particularly focus on addressing identified disparities in internet access and digital literacy skills for those who are historically underserved or underrepresented.
In the Task Force’s letter to former City Manager Richard Rossi, it stated that “Phase II of planning must directly address digital equity and inclusiveness, seeking the advice of residents who have not adopted broadband in the home or who have, but find the expense burdensome. The next phase should also incorporate targeted outreach to, for example, low income communities, the school system, and Cambridge social service agencies. Cambridge, with its wealth of resources, can provide a model for how cities should deal with digital inclusiveness.” To that end, in the spring we contracted CTC Technology & Energy to prepare a recommended methodology that will enable the City to understand digital challenges in Cambridge sufficiently so we can develop an actionable plan to address those challenges.
The potential for a $200 million capital investment to build a fiber to the premise broadband system in Cambridge and millions more to run and maintain a broadband system is not in the City’s financial plan. Funding of a municipal broadband system would have a direct impact on existing priority areas such as affordable housing, expanding early childhood education, investing in street infrastructure, our school reconstruction program and school budget allocation, the Foundry Project, and improving the conditions of municipal facilities, including fire stations.
In the coming weeks, I will be submitting an appropriation request to the City Council for this digital equity project. Additionally, I will be formally dissolving the Broadband Task Force, as it has completed its initial charge, and I will be appointing a new City Manager’s Digital Divide Advisory Council to assist with our new focus. I appreciate the foundational work of the Broadband Task Force and the time and effort its members dedicated to creating the Task Force’s report.
The City remains committed to ensuring that all individuals and communities, especially the most disadvantaged, have access to broadband and computers.
Louis A. DePasquale