Advocate Policy Solutions_
In February of 2021, Centri Tech announced the release of its Digital Advancement Principles and Policy Recommendations. This whitepaper provided recommended guidelines of the most effective strategies to an inclusive, digitally advanced economy. The principles that Centri Tech espoused in the whitepaper included: that universal access to high-quality broadband is essential, that adoption of technology is about culture, and that innovation for the public good requires the convergence of all sectors—public, private, and nonprofit. The whitepaper goes on to recommend specific policy proposals for the federal government, state and local governments, educational institutions, and the private sector, including:
Broadband Speed Definition: The federal government should increase the federally-mandated definition of “broadband” to reflect connectivity speeds sufficient to power telework, teleschool, telehealth, and other streaming capabilities, with minimum synchronous speeds of 50Mbps.
Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Reform: The federal government should reform the CRA to explicitly encourage and incentivize banks to invest in affordable broadband that meets the standard for meaningful access in rural and urban America. Likewise, the CRA should be expanded to require other industries—such as the technology and telecom sectors—to invest in low- and moderate-income communities.
Affordable and Public Housing Support: The federal government should make broadband essential infrastructure in the home by requiring all affordable housing subsidized by state and local governments to provide affordable connectivity options for residents.
Human Capital: Federal and state workforce investment systems should make new investments and repurpose existing resources to better meet both national and individual needs and aspirations by providing resources for: digital skills training to increase the middle skill labor talent supply; upskilling and reskilling pathways via on-the-job training; apprenticeships and other work based learning opportunities; and career and education pathways to in-demand jobs and careers that provide family and life sustaining wages.
Educational Institutions: The federal government should position and invest in the role of Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AAPISIs), as a critical resource for communities to provide technology adoption programs and expertise to support residents and small businesses in campus-adjacent communities and regions.
Centri Tech has put out a call to any organizations working toward digital advancement to sign-on in support of these policy recommendations.
“The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women) seeks to ensure an inclusive, digitally-advanced economy. Centri Tech's recommended policies reflect NOBEL Women's goal to support policy initiatives that both enhance and sustain underserved and unserved communities.”
Alabama State Representative Juandalynn Givan
President, NOBEL Women
The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women adopted the Centri Tech RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF DIGITALLY CONNECTED HOMES POST COVID-19. It was sponsored by President Karen Camper (TN) and was unanimously adopted.
Centri Tech held a virtual panel discussion to facilitate dialogue between academicians, policymakers, civil society organizations, industry executives and other like-minded individuals to discuss how the Digital Advancement imperative will expand opportunities for all citizens.
President Biden signs into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that includes $65 billion of support for broadband infrastructure build-out and adoption. Centri Tech has engaged with federal agencies to brief them on our work on behalf of low-income communities and to advocate for the best possible use of these important public dollars to maximize results for all Americans.
A recognition of our country’s growing “digital divide” takes early hold among policy advocates, spurring public and private efforts to connect the unconnected via public access points, such as libraries and newly-formed “community technology centers.”
First home Broadband installations begin, with about 2.5% of American households connected via an “always-on” Internet connection, surpassing the speed of dial-up connections which maxxed out at 56Kbps.
A new nonprofit organization, One Economy Corporation, forms to help bring internet connectivity, content, and training to low-Income Americans as a means to combat poverty. One Economy’s approach has a particular focus on home-based access for all.
One Economy creates the Beehive, a new online destination for education and tools to help low-income Americans meet the challenges and opportunities related to their finances, health, education, employment, and more.
One Economy launches the Digital Connectors program in Washington, D.C. to hire and train high-school aged youth in technology skills and then deploy them to serve as technology ambassadors in their neighborhoods. This pilot program would ultimately be replicated as a national model in communities from DC to San Francisco, resulting in more than one million hours of service to low-income neighborhoods and 10,000 young people trained.
One Economy launches the Public Internet Channel, a new website devoted to bringing public purpose programming to audiences often left out of the media landscape. The effort was co-chaired by Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.
President Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a stimulus package that includes $7.2 billion devoted to promoting broadband infrastructure and adoption.
One Economy receives the largest broadband adoption grant as part of the ARRA from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This $28.5 million grant, backed by $25 million in private match, enables One Economy to expand its reach and impact into communities across the nation through its relationships with over 900 community-based organizations (CBOs), its connection of 27,000 units of affordable housing to broadband, and digital skills training to more than 260,000 Americans.
ARRA also commissions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a National Broadband Plan, which was unveiled in March. The plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100/50 Mbps internet connections by the year 2020, 1 gig connections to community anchor institutions, and affordable access to in-home broadband connectivity and training for all Americans.
After 13 years of impactful work, One Economy Corporation’s highlights include: pioneering shared in-home broadband access and connecting more than 40,000 low-income households; training 10,000 Digital Connectors as tech ambassadors for nearly 1 million neighborhood residents; creating life-enhancing content and applications used by 20 million people, and creating the Bring IT Home policy campaign, which encouraged in-home broadband in publicly-financed housing in 40 states.
Mobile devices become the most common means of accessing the Internet, partly as a result of telecommunications companies' now-ubiquitous implementation of “4G” or fourth generation mobile networks, capable of transmitting data at speeds of 100Mbps.
Nearly 25 million Americans remain disconnected from broadband at home. For low-income and rural communities the numbers are worst of all–with nearly half of all households making less than $35,000/year still disconnected.
In December, a small group of entrepreneurs, including former founders of One Economy Corporation, found a new company called Centri Tech, to address tech infrastructure and adoption as a means to improve and enhance the lives of Americans, particularly the un- and under-connected.
Early in the new year, the sudden outbreak of a deadly new virus is declared a global emergency. In the U.S., and around the world, stay-at-home orders go into effect and people are left to manage their work, education, and healthcare online. Our collective lack of preparedness for this technological challenge is laid bare.
In November, Centri Tech officially launches, along with its nonprofit, the Centri Tech Foundation. Together, they lay the groundwork to execute on our new national imperative, Digital Advancement.
Local governments, places of business, and school districts all scramble to find fast and effective solutions to our now-obvious technical shortcomings. Some school systems distribute free devices to students that need them to bring classes 100% online. Internet connectivity remains a harder problem to solve, leaving many students to park outside of free public wifi hotspots to download and upload their assignments.
How did we get here?
Centri Tech Annual Report 2021