By providing access to information, connecting people to businesses, and opening up new markets, the internet is changing the economy and supporting economic development. Yet nearly 30 percent of American households do not have Internet access, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Those Americans with no online connectivity are disproportionately old, black or Hispanic, poorly educated, and low income. In order for cities to remain competitive in the increasingly digital world, the internet must be accessible to all residents, not just those who live in digital gated communities.
Through a coordinated approach, Mayor Andy Berke is leading an initiative to connect more people to high speed broadband to unlock the potential of all Chattanoogans. In April 2015, Mayor Berke announced that the City’s municipally owned electric utility, EPB, would offer low-cost, ultra high speed broadband to low-income families. In addition to increasing access to the internet, the City partnered with a local nonprofit to offer classes around the community aimed at increasing online usage and digital literacy. Participants in the program receive guidance on how to submit a resume online, open an email account, and set good rules about internet usage for minors in their home. By connecting residents to the tools they need to be successful in the digital economy, Mayor Berke is helping expand opportunity throughout Chattanooga.