Chattanooga’s experience with broadband and digital equity was part of a Congressional hearing on January 29. A letter from Mayor Andy Berke was entered into the record during the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s hearing on “Empowering and Connecting Communities through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption,” the first such hearing to focus on issues of inclusion – and not just broadband deployment – regarding the digital divide. Berke’s letter was submitted alongside one from the City of Seattle:
“Chattanooga’s success has depended not just on an ‘if you build it’ broadband strategy, but through investment in digital equity and inclusion. Talent is distributed equally throughout every neighborhood in this great country, but, too often, resources are not. Even with the fastest, most pervasive internet in the world, still some Chattanooga residents, urban and rural, remain disconnected. Being caught on the wrong side of the digital divide — whether due to affordability, lack of access to a device or a host of other barriers — can have a devastating impact on economic mobility, educational outcomes and overall quality of life.”
Berke’s letter went on to explain some of the ways Chattanooga is working to close the digital divide, from EPB’s reduced-cost Netbridge home internet plan for school students to the work organizations like La Paz and the Urban League have done to reduce digital barriers to entrepreneurship. He also highlighted Tech Goes Home and the more than 4,500 residents who have received training, access to a device and assistance acquiring home internet since the program began in 2015.