SEATTLE (September 16, 2020) – Following up on the Internet for All Initiative announced earlier this summer, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez announced the release of the initial Internet for All Report and Action Plan. Building off of the information gathered as a part of the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption study, this initial Internet for All Report includes a gap analysis of internet, technology and device needs and an Action Plan with eight strategies to close these gaps. The Internet for All Initiative elevates citywide digital equity strategies to increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis.
“We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue, and the pandemic has further magnified the digital inequities with many in our community lacking the technology and devices need for school or work. The Internet for All Initiative provides the City of Seattle a new roadmap and tangible action plan to close the digital divide and meaningfully increase to both Wi-Fi and devices at this critical time for our City,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “I appreciate the leadership of Councilmember Pedersen, Council President Gonzalez, and Councilmember Juarez who co-sponsored the Internet for All Resolution, the full commitment from City Departments, and collaboration with community partners, internet service providers, as well as the business and philanthropic community who have all come together to support this initiative.”
The Internet for All Initiative was launched early this summer to address internet and technology needs and disparities that have been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. The report includes eight strategies to address this gap in internet skills and access, including recommendations to strategically deploy more public Wi-Fi in digital equity areas by 2021, and foster up to 20,000 internet connections and devices for underserved individuals by 2023. The City will continue to pursue private sector and philanthropic partnerships to expand access to reliable internet and partnering with organizations to deliver culturally relevant digital inclusion programs.
“COVID19 has made it clear that access to the internet is an essential for every household. A lack of internet access exacerbates the challenges of this pandemic: students and their families need reliable connections to participate in virtual classrooms, laid-off workers need internet access to apply for unemployment benefits or search for jobs, and many of our social connections keeping us healthy and connected are primarily online for the foreseeable future,” Said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. “Seattle’s elected leaders hold the shared priority of creating more access and equity when it comes to our residents connecting to the internet, and this report lays out a path forward to do so.”
“Seattle is a city that rightfully prides itself on world-class technology, but the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustices of the Digital Divide,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology matters. “I called for this action plan with my colleagues to achieve Internet for All because we can no longer allow limited access to the internet to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses. It’s time to provide reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, education, and economic development. This ambitious report from the Mayor and her team, in collaboration with the City Council, spurs Seattle’s long-term efforts to provide affordable and reliable internet to low-income, BIPOC, and all communities, so that we can finally achieve Internet for All.”
“Internet for All affects everyone,” said Councilmember Juarez, co-sponsor of the Internet for All resolution. “A lack of a quality internet connection affects frustrated schoolchildren missing instruction time and compounds the isolation of our seniors. Our city’s economic recovery from this recession will slow if our workforce does not have access to training, cannot research new careers and opportunities, and cannot easily apply to a job. Today’s report further solidifies my commitment to partner with the co-sponsors Councilmembers Pedersen and González and Mayor Durkan to bridge the digital divide.”
“Demand for high-speed broadband has soared to new heights. In today’s digital world, access to affordable internet has become as essential as clean water and electricity. Seattle is leading the way when it comes to digital equity, but there is room for improvement. Through the Internet for All Initiative, Seattle IT is committed to ensuring that there is an equal digital opportunity afforded to every resident in the City of Seattle,” said Saad Bashir, Chief Technology Officer, City of Seattle.
While the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study found that 95% of Seattle households are connected to the internet, it also showed that 45% of lower-income households reported that access to the internet in their household was not adequate or only sometimes adequate for their needs. With more and more essential functions moving online, like applying for jobs, searching for healthcare, and attending online classes, access to reliable internet and the skills to use it are more important than ever. The COVID-19 crisis, along with the local and national Black Lives Matter protests, has amplified the need to address digital inequities by increasing access to affordable internet, low-cost devices, and digital skills training.
Additionally, the report finds that rather than being spread out across the City, internet disparities are concentrated geographically in certain areas of the City. The areas of Seattle representing the largest portions of the 5% gap in internet adoption are:
South Central Seattle (Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace, and International District)
South Seattle (New Holly, Rainier Valley, and Beacon Hill)
West Seattle (High Point and South Park)
Areas of downtown