Today the Schools, Health &, Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) is launching a new campaign effort, Grow2Gig+, to promote high-speed broadband access for anchor institutions and their communities. Anchor institutions like schools and libraries are vital in addressing the digital divide at a community level. The National Broadband Plan called for bringing gigabit speeds to every community anchor by 2020, but the country is falling behind. Mobile Citizen supports the work of SHLB to address the digital divide and are excited for its new Vision and Action plan. To learn more, check out the press release below.

Washington DC (April 27th, 2016) – To meet the goals of the National Broadband Plan, America must renew its commitment to bring affordable multi-gigabit speed broadband access by 2020 to thousands of Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) – the schools, libraries, health clinics, and community centers that hold our communities together.

That is the message in a new “Vision” Paper being released today by the SHLB Coalition titled, “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Vision of Our Future,” written by Christine Mullins with a foreword from Blair Levin.

**To view a copy of the paper, click here

**To join us for the official campaign kick off event, WED at 5:00 PM EST, or to watch online, click here.

Key findings in the paper illustrate why action is needed, including:

  • 23% of school districts do not meet the minimum goals for Internet access, which leaves 21 million children without enough bandwidth for digital learning.
  • About 42% of all public libraries have a broadband connection 10 Mbps or slower.
  • Rural health clinics face a significant broadband speed gap compared to metro communities, impacting Electronic Medical Records and Health Information Exchanges.

The “Vision” paper is the first installment of the SHLB Coalition’s new broadband “Action Plan” that will be released in the next few months, supplying recommendations for federal, state, and local policy changes.

“The National Broadband Plan called for gigabit speeds for all anchor institutions by the year 2020, but we are in grave danger of failing to meet that goal,” said John Windhausen, Executive Director, SHLB Coalition. “Our anchor institutions hold communities together; they provide essential Internet connectivity to our children, the elderly, the poor, and everyone. High-speed broadband at anchor institutions enables people to lead rich and productive lives, start new businesses, engage in 21st century learning, and connect with their community.”

This week, the FCC will take next steps to reign in excessive pricing for special access services, now called “Business Data Services,” an action that could lower prices and speed the deployment of high speed broadband to millions of schools, libraries and health care providers around the country.

“SHLB has led the efforts to modernize our approach to broadband policy and made sure the voices of these critical public facilities are heard,” said Blair Levin, Former Executive Director of the U.S. National Broadband Plan. “As schools, libraries, and health care providers become more and more dependent on the commons of collaboration we call broadband, SHLB’s voice becomes even more important to the future effectiveness of these institutions and the communities they serve.”

The SHLB Coalition’s new campaign is called: “Grow2Gig+: Anchors Advance Communities.” “Our new Grow 2 Gig+ campaign will promote new ideas and actions to connect our libraries, schools, and health facilities to a faster, better future,” said Jennie Stapp, Chair of the SHLB Coalition Board of Directors and State Librarian of Montana. “The purpose of this campaign is to bring fast, affordable broadband to CAIs across America to promote digital equity and stimulate economic growth.”

Several SHLB partner organizations and members lent their voice to help support the effort, including: American Library Association, Benton Foundation, CoSN – the Consortium for School Networking, and Education Networks of America (ENA).

“ENA has been dedicated to connecting communities for the past 20 years, and we actively work with our school and library customers to meet their goals of attaining high quality and reliable 1 Gbps or greater connectivity in the most cost-effective ways possible. ENA is proud to support SHLB’s Action Plan, as its comprehensive vision and concrete action plan papers will help communities address the shortage of adequate broadband for anchor institutions and their communities,” said Bob Collie, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Education Networks of America.

“Our investment in bringing high-capacity broadband to anchors institutions, and through anchors to the rest of the community, will determine whether the country will be divided between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ or whether we capture the benefits of the Internet for all people,” said Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Foundation, the publisher of SHLB’s broadband action plan. “High-capacity broadband allows anchor institutions to expand their crucial missions so every student and citizen can reach their potential and be a full participant in our increasingly digital world.”

“Libraries are transforming into community hubs for digital content creation and collaboration,” said American Library Association President Sari Feldman. “Having a high-speed and resilient Internet connection at each and every library is essential to ensuring a full range of services related to education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and community engagement for all.”

CoSN’s 2016 IT Leadership Survey issued three weeks ago found that broadband and network capacity is this year’s top priority for school district technology leaders/chief technology officers. The new SHLB Vision paper lays out a crisp vision of why this is a national priority and lays out the foundation for policy changes needed at the local, state and national level,” said Keith R. Krueger, CEO, CoSN – the Consortium for School Networking.

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