Program to help bridge digital divide, providing internet access for low-income residents across the city
Syracuse, N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the City of Syracuse is requesting proposals for a pilot program for the design, implementation and maintenance of a municipally shared telecommunications network. The program will serve households lacking access to high-speed internet, and establish an enhanced municipal network for the City’s digital services and data-driven applications.
Data from the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) documents a digital divide in Syracuse: more than 25% of Syracuse households lack any internet access and nearly 45% lack access to the broadband level speeds needed to support multiple users. The pilot program is intended to target households in census tracts with the lowest rates of internet and broadband access.
“In the digital age, access to affordable and reliable internet service is essential to our daily lives,” said Mayor Walsh. “The challenges families without adequate internet access face have been exacerbated by COVID-19, from adjustments to working from home and applying for jobs, to ensuring children have access to learning platforms, to maintaining our social connections, the need for dependable internet is more prevalent than ever. I am pleased that we are moving towards a more connected Syracuse community with this request for proposals.”
The pilot program will be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The City will seek to expand the Community Broadband Program in the future with additional federal and state funding.
Bridging the digital divide is a critical component of the Syracuse Surge, the City’s strategy for inclusive growth in the New Economy. The City has made key investments in digital infrastructure, smart devices that capture and analyze data, data-driven applications and more inclusive access to the internet and digital literacy for residents. In its effort to provide sources of internet to residents, the City established free Wi-Fi service at public buildings such as City Hall and City Hall Commons, and expanded free public Wi-Fi access at five neighborhood-based community center locations.
In addition to these investments in broadband, Common Council recently authorized $430,835 in ARPA funds to support the ‘Digital Empowerment Program.’ The innovative program will improve digital literacy and provide support in accessing affordable high-speed internet services and devices to City residents. Administered by the Syracuse Neighborhood Community Center Collaborative, the funds will be used to hire a Digital Empowerment Program Manager and four “Digital Navigators” to work directly with residents to better access digital and online services like applying for jobs and public benefits, accessing social services, and staying connected to their family and friends.
More information about the Community Broadband pilot program and scope of work will be provided upon request by the City Purchase Division. Interested vendors should contact Stacy Jennis at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of the request for proposals. Proposals must be received by October 11, 2022.