Local Technology Planning Teams Critical to Digital Equity Planning

Local Technology Planning Teams Critical to Digital Equity Planning

Posted on August 16, 2023 by Karen Stewart, Digital Access for All Engagement Team
Local Technology Planning Teams Critical to Digital Equity Planning
The Florida Office of Broadband is currently developing two plans to implement projects using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand broadband and use the vast Federal dollars in the state and region allocated for internet for all. The plans are:
The Florida Strategic Plan for Broadband (Strategic Plan) provides a vision for advancing a connected economy in Florida by championing the state’s economic development vision and administering state and federal programs and initiatives, including broadband, to help visitors, citizens, businesses, and communities. The Department’s role is to holistically focus on the state’s workforce, economy, and community development, and this is accomplished through workforce development and funding-ready infrastructure, as well as by strengthening the connections and partnerships between workforce investments, economic development, and strong communities.

According to the plan, the three-step approach of availability, adoption, and use leads to a connected economy supporting workforce development, education, and health care. The outcomes of a connected economy are described in the following:
  • Workforce Development: A connected economy is realized when robust workforce development initiatives create and sustain high-quality, high-paying jobs and career paths for residents, particularly in rural and underserved communities.
  • Education: Greater access to educational opportunities and choices for students and families while promoting enhanced collaboration between education institutions and private sector businesses to create successful career pathways for individuals.
  • Health Care: Availability of telehealth and public health services in typically underserved communities to produce healthier Floridians and support their ability to be successful in all other facets of their lives.
These steps must be undertaken with a high level of accountability to ensure positive impacts on business growth, job growth, development of workforce education and job training opportunities, healthier Floridians, and connected workforce housing. These outcomes are a direct benefit to the four-county region served by The Patterson Foundation, to underrepresented communities, and Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) families working in essential jobs and earning wages just above the poverty level.

The Strategic Plan proposes a community-based approach to planning for the connected economy and ensuring needs are met in unserved and underserved communities. The Jobs Act points out the concept that local and regional entities are well-positioned to identify and respond to the broadband Internet needs of their residents. According to the Department of Commerce, the most critical aspect of this comprehensive effort is a coordinated planning effort between Local Technology Planning Teams (LTPTs) and the Florida Office of Broadband.

The Office of Broadband was directed by Florida Statute 288.9961(4)(b) to build and facilitate local planning teams representing cross-sections of the community, which may include representatives from libraries, K-12 education, colleges and universities, local health care providers, private businesses, community organizations, economic development organizations, local governments, tourism, parks and recreation, and agriculture. Each of Florida’s 67 counties has a local planning team. You can find information about local team leaders here.

The directives for LTPTs identified in the statute include the following:
  • Work with rural communities to help understand current broadband availability.
  • Locate unserved and underserved businesses and residents.
  • Identify assets relevant to broadband deployment.
  • Build partnerships with broadband service providers.
  • Identify opportunities to leverage assets and reduce barriers to deploying broadband Internet services in the community.
  • Teams must be proactive in fiscally constrained counties in identifying funding opportunities and assisting with applying for federal grants for broadband Internet service.
The work of LTPTs is critical to ensuring the availability, adoption, and use of broadband, leading to a connected economy. Working with LTPTs, organizations must get ready by assessing capacity and determining needs for program expansion, grant applications, and required administrative and financial oversight. Moreover, partnership opportunities must be explored to promote innovative frameworks and strategies to support the plans and work to develop a collective impact approach to digital inclusion strategies. This community-based work will influence and inform plans for BEAD and the Digital Equity Planning Grant.

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