Community Anchor Institutions and Residential Broadband Adoption


Residential broadband adoption has stalled – about one-third of American homes still do not subscribe to landline broadband service. CAIs can help increase residential broadband adoption in many ways. CAIs can provide digital literacy training, educate consumers about government programs to promote broadband adoption, lead community planning efforts, and, in some cases, provide wireless broadband services directly to consumers. For these efforts to succeed, however, policymakers must provide CAIs and their community partners with locally customized resources to meet the needs of specific populations.

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Recommendations for Action

  • Federal, state, and local governments should develop broadband plans that specifically identify and support the roles that CAIs play in promoting broadband adoption. The plans should recognize that CAIs can:
    • Distribute information to consumers about how to sign up for the Lifeline program and other programs that make broadband more affordable;
    • Serve as broadband providers for low-income populations;
    • Provide digital literacy training; and
    • Lead and convene local broadband planning efforts.
  • The federal government should 1) create a National Digital Literacy Corps, as recommended by the National Broadband Plan, and 2) leverage the work and assets of CAIs in promoting digital literacy.
  • The FCC and states should consider increasing the amount of the Lifeline subsidy for low-income families who need an affordable, high-capacity wireline broadband service at home, and identify CAIs’ role in promoting these programs.
  • Federal, state, and local governments should facilitate and/or support broadband adoption data collection and research to aid the strategic work of CAIs and their partners. CAIs can provide key information about specific populations that can help to target broadband adoption efforts to meet the needs of local constituencies.
  • Local and state governments should designate staff positions tasked with identifying broadband adoption resources and coordinating regional broadband adoption efforts that include CAIs. These  staff can recognize CAI leaders in each state who are best suited to serve on task forces, or engage in broadband planning, to promote broadband adoption and digital literacy.
  • The federal government should consider allowing schools and libraries that receive E-rate support to use a portion of their broadband capacity for community “hot spots” and for residential broadband traffic, as long as E-rate funds are not used to pay for these additional services.

Examples/Case Studies

2016 New York Public Library Hot Spot Lending Program Website
2016 Boulder Valley School District FCC Waiver to Provide Internet to Low-Income Housing PDF
2016 Libraries Using TV White Space (TVWS) Website
2016 CETF and Charter Settlement Provides Public Benefits for Broadband Deployment Website
2016 Seattle's Digital Equity Action Plan Website
2016 Microsoft and Virginia School Districts FCC Petition to Extend White Space to Homes PDF
2016 Digital Charlotte's Inclusion Strategy Website
2015 Kansas City Public Library Hotpot Program with Public Schools Press Releas
2015 Albemarle County School's Fiber Network and LTE Wireless Network Article

Additional Resources

About the Author

Angela Siefer is the Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). Angela envisions a world in which all members of society have the skills and resources to use the Internet for the betterment of themselves and their communities. Since 1997, Angela has worked on digital inclusion issues with local community organizations, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, state governments, and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. This work led Angela to co-found the National Digital Inclusion Alli- ance, a unified national voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs. A profile of her written work is at

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Action Plan Authors

Amelia Bryne

Kelleigh Cole

Joanne Hovis

Tom Koutsky

Blair Levin

Christine Mullins

Angela Siefer

Gina Spade

John Windhausen


Steering Committee

Larra Clark, American Library Association

Adrianne Furniss, Benton Foundation

Kevin Taglang, Benton Foundation

Bob Collie, ENA

Lil Kellogg, ENA

Rex Miller, ENA

Susannah Spellman, Internet2/USUCAN