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Click here for a PDF with more information about Connected.

Connected certification recognizes that a community has measurably demonstrated proficiency for effective access, adoption, and use of broadband and broadband supported technologies. This national platform recognizes communities that are excelling in their pursuit of accelerated access, adoption, and use of broadband. While an exciting accomplishment for any community, it is critical to stress that Connected certification is not the end of the Connected program. In fact, Connected certification, while recognizing work completed to date, marks the launch of the Technology Action Plan and the beginning of a community’s journey to continually improve its broadband landscape. Maintaining community collaboration and progress during plan implementation is a difficult task, but one that will result in an improved standing in the digital economy. Additionally, Connected certified communities, and all communities engaged in the Connected program, are part of a nationwide network of stakeholders all working toward the same goal: improved broadband access, adoption, and use. While every community is different, many share common issues and Connected works to identify the best practices for solving these issues and share them with this network. Together, we can work to bring affordable, reliable, and high-capacity infrastructure to underserved areas; promote adoption via skills training and education; and facilitate the advanced use of technology among all sectors to create more sustainable, resilient, and prosperous communities.

The Connected Assessment is designed to measure and analyze the local broadband and technology landscape. The criteria for the Connected Assessment stems from several sources including the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan.

The Connected Assessment examines broadband in the areas of Access, Adoption, and Use. The Access portion has six metrics, Adoption seven, and the Use portion of the assessment examines a multitude of metrics across ten sectors representing the interrelated institutions and organizations across a community.

Access: Is your infrastructure adequate?

Home Broadband Availability: What percentage of homes in the community has access to fixed broadband at the FCC’s definition of Advanced Broadband Service?

High Speed Availability: What percentage of homes have access to ultra-fast Internet service?

Broadband Competition: What percentage of homes in the community has access to more than one broadband provider?

Platform Dependency: What percentage of homes in the community has access to more than one type of broadband?

Middle Mile Access: What is the availability of middle mile or backhaul infrastructure in the community?

Mobile Broadband Availability: Which areas of the community have access to mobile broadband service at sufficient speeds from multiple providers?

Adoption: Are you addressing barriers to home broadband adoption?

Home Broadband Adoption: How many households adopt or subscribe to home Internet service?

Affordability: How does the cost of broadband in your community compare to the state and nation?

Digital Literacy: Do residents of the community have the hardware, software, and online skills to participate in the digital economy? 

Public Computers: Does the community provide adequate access to public computers?

Frequency of Internet Use: How often do residents of the community access the Internet?

Use: Is your community utilizing broadband to pursue an improved quality of life?

Government: The provision of government services and new tactics for community involvement can be made through the application of technology within local municipalities.

Libraries and Community Organizations: These entities are vital to providing access to information, services, and resources. Broadband can benefit their provision of services and create operational efficiencies.

Economic Prosperity: High-speed connectivity is critical in a global economy, yet many businesses are not leveraging the technologies that can help them compete. The use of broadband by various economic development support organizations is also examined.

Tourism: Many communities see significant revenue from travelers visiting from outside their city. Broadband and technology are important to attract such development and visitors.

Healthcare: Broadband impacts and improves not only the provision of care, but also a patient’s access to their personal medical information and allows for mobile monitoring and tracking to build awareness for how everyday life impacts one’s health.

Agriculture: While agriculture is not often thought of as a high-tech field, agriculture producers rely heavily on broadband, often in rural locations in which connections may be sparse.

Higher Education: From traditional degree programs to innovative workforce development and online courses, broadband enhances post-secondary educational opportunities for all.

K-12 Education: Technology device programs and access to online content can improve the provision of K-12 education and allow students to learn in non-traditional environments.

Public Safety: Broadband and technology can greatly impact citizen’s access to public safety resources and information. Additionally, local public safety can assist in providing information and resources for battling cybercrime and cybersecurity issues.

Entrepreneurship, Talent, and Workforce Development: These elements are essential to business development and ensuring existing businesses have the talent that they need to compete.

 

Data collection is the most critical phase of the Connected program. The data required to complete the Connected assessment comes from a variety of sources. The local Connected team works with Connected Nation to gather information from local residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations. This unprecedented, hyper-local data is not available from another source and allows Connected Nation to provide Connected Communities with a detailed analysis of the local broadband ecosystem.

Connected Nation employs community technology advisors to facilitate stakeholder outreach, broadband planning meetings, technology assessments, and solution identification. Connected Nation staff provides the following to participating communities:

– Start-to-finish program guidance and facilitation by an experienced Community Technology Advisor
– Customized data collection tools for gathering and assessing broadband & technology access, adoption, and use data
– Geospatial analysis of community infrastructure opportunities and gaps
– Community Technology Action Plan that provides local team with specific objectives and strategies
– Membership in the Community of Communities to share and learn best practices for plan implementation
– Connected branding toolkit to promote the community’s plan development and successes
– Access to partner network selected to assist communities with specific development needs
– Opportunity to become Connected certified following assessment and plan implementation

The length of the initial planning process is dependent on the community’s commitment and time resources. Most communities are able to complete their technology action plans in seven to nine months.

Connected Nation is a leading technology organization committed to bringing affordable high-speed Internet and broadband-enabled resources to all Americans. Connected Nation effectively raises the awareness of the value of broadband and related technologies by developing coalitions of influencers and enablers for improving technology access, adoption, and use. Connected Nation works with consumers, community leaders, states, technology providers and foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop and implement technology expansion programs with core competencies centered on a mission to improve digital inclusion for people and places previously underserved or overlooked.

Connected Nation started the Connected Community Engagement Program in 2011 to facilitate broadband planning at the local level.

A community can be any geographic area that is appropriate to your unique situation. That can include a city, county, region, or neighborhood. Here are two quick considerations when thinking about your community. One, will your community be so small that there are no broadband usage components available? Two, most broadband availability information is available at the census block level, if your community is smaller than that, it will be difficult to get an accurate assessment of your community’s broadband availability.

Most communities use existing county, city, or regional boundaries.

Connected is unique in that it is a national program, but it provides a community-based framework to increase the capacity of local residents, officials, businesses, and institutions to pursue technology innovation in a way that is specific to that community’s needs. The most striking feature of the Connected program is the collection and analysis of hyper-local data related to the access, adoption, and use of technology in the local community. In addition, Connected is:

  • Cyclical: The program is cyclical to reflect the pace of technological change and project implementation. Completion of the initial planning process provides a blueprint for local action.

  • Collaborative: Connected helps open a dialog and collaboration among sectors in the community that otherwise tend to stay within their own sectors.

  • Empowering: Connected assumes that increasing the capacity of the local community to determine priorities and address problems will result in the community learning both how to achieve specific broadband planning-related tasks, as well as how to help themselves in the future.

  • Promotional: Via Connected certification, Connected gives communities of any size and type the ability to join the ranks of the “silicon valleys” and break down technology barriers that prevents them from retaining workers and attracting good jobs.

  • Collective:  Connected seeks to create a collective intelligence among participating communities that are separated by geography or political jurisdiction but are experiencing similar barriers or pursuing similar solutions. Participants in the Connected program have access to the best practices utilized by communities all over the United States.

The fundamental challenge of infrastructure planning and digital inclusion efforts is bridging the gap between local needs, capacities, and potential uses of technology and the networks and organizations that provide supply. The value of the Connected planning process is its capacity to involve local stakeholders in benchmarking the current landscape, articulating specific local needs, priorities, and capacities, and creating an opportunity for market providers to formulate responses or to create a local coalition to pursue alternative avenues for access (infrastructure), adoption and use solutions (digital inclusion).

Participating communities have found the practical benefits of participating in the Connected program the most valuable part of the process.  Some have found ways to improve their schools’ access to high-speed Internet. Others have found ways to train the unemployed for technology jobs.  Still others have found ways to better organize community activities and share information locally.

As an example – the broadband planning team in Greenwood County, SC was able to help broker a deal to run fiber to a business that had planned on leaving the community due to low bandwidth, as well as identified two data centers which caught the attention of a company looking to bring data center jobs to South Carolina.  Because of the Connected program, the Greenwood County team now understands what is needed and expected (from an access perspective) by companies to be successful; has a personal relationship with the providers, which will help in the expansion opportunity; and is able to identify success to build on for future opportunities with technology-intensive companies.

More success stories from Connected Communities can be found by clicking here.

The Connected program seeks to marry technical information with a decision-making process that will assist your community in developing a local technology action plan. The process will include creating a public dialogue, identifying local technology resources and gaps, and developing solutions. Your community should be prepared to develop a multi-sector broadband planning team, as well as identify a local representative to lead the planning process. Local meeting space should also be identified to host planning meetings. Complete the form by clicking here to start working with Connected Nation to improve your community’s place in the digital economy.

The local coordinator, or Community Champion, should be prepared to help:

Identify and contact stakeholders to participate

Schedule and coordinate meetings

Coordinate tasks between planning team members

All the individuals and groups that make your community a “community” should be represented on your community planning team. Examples of team members include (but NOT limited to):

Local government officials
Chamber of Commerce
Local Economic Development
School district
Emergency Management 
officials
Extension Service
Local tourism
Local hospital
Colleges & universities
Media outlets
Service providers

Business leaders

Local libraries

Non-profit organizations

Senior citizens center leader
Local Farm Bureau
Health Department
Public safety
Parks department
Regional planning groups
Tribal and Native groups