High-speed broadband internet is a critical service needed for almost every aspect of our lives – from education, employment, and healthcare to civic and social engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of reliable connectivity when homes were transformed into virtual learning, telework, and healthcare spaces, and businesses relied on online sales. The global crisis shined a spotlight on and exacerbated many of our communities’ inequities. In Arlington, one out of every six households do not have fixed broadband internet access, mostly impacting low-income households, older adults, and persons of color. Lack of broadband access puts many at a major disadvantage, hindering important tasks, such as completing virtual learning or homework, researching and applying for jobs, accessing public services, accessing healthcare information and attending telehealth visits, accessing news and emergency alerts, and paying bills.
Vision and Principles
Digital Equity is an enterprise initiative between the Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development, Department of Technology Services, and Arlington Public Libraries. Our vision is for all Arlington residents to have affordable, reliable access to high-speed broadband internet and the necessary devices and technology skills to fully participate in the community and economy. Our work is currently guided by the following four principles:
Connectivity: The County will invest in infrastructure to support lower cost connectivity for affordable housing residents.
Access: All residents can access the internet and cost is not a barrier.
Education & Training: Residents have the appropriate skills necessary to be successful on the internet.
Program Sustainability & Community Capacity: Ensure strategies are sustainable and the community is engaged on the issue.
UPDATE: Arlington issued a Request for Proposals for a consultant to perform the study. Proposals are due on January 20, 2022.
The County will undertake a broadband study to assess available broadband and digital inclusion resources, evaluate resident and business needs, explore broadband delivery models, and identify strategies for increasing broadband resources. The study will help Arlington select and implement appropriate solutions to address Arlington’s digital divide and ensure adequate and affordable broadband access across the County. The countywide study will focus on answering the following questions:
- What is the extent and quality of broadband infrastructure in Arlington today?
- Do the available broadband resources meet the County’s current and future needs?
- What is the nature and extent of the unserved/underserved population (related to access, adoption, affordability, internet quality, digital literacy, and device needs)?
- What broadband speed is needed for long-term planning, and what is the most appropriate technology to facilitate the County’s needs?
- What infrastructure development and internet service delivery options should be pursued, given the County’s available resources, existing and future community needs, and costs?