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Digital Equity Community Plan

A broad coalition of public, private, and community partners have invested to develop a comprehensive plan and roadmap to increase digital inclusion in San Antonio and Greater Bexar County.  

Through the effort, the group engaged 140+ community entities through interviews, an inventory survey, and focus groups; identified learnings from 80+ local efforts supporting digital inclusion today, and researched comparable city benchmarks.

 

Our plan proposes key initiatives to address all barriers to access. We have developed a roadmap to implement and activate against our strategy, with a focus on near-term priorities. 

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Click the button below to download the FULL Digital Equity Community Plan and Roadmap (304-page PDF document)

Communty Plan & Roadmap
  • What is SA Digital Connects?
    SA Digital Connects (SADC) is an unincorporated nonprofit registered with Texas for the purpose of executing this scope of work: SA Digital Connects, is a public/private/community investment in a San Antonio and Greater Bexar County Community Digital Equity Plan and Roadmap that will lead to future action steps; including timelines, milestones, key stakeholder roles, and required investment for execution. With this roadmap, our community is “shovel ready” to make effective use of local, state, and federal funding for key digital access and equity initiatives impacting households, students, older adults, veterans, people living with disabilities, workforce, telemedicine, and the justice system.
  • Who operates and governs SA Digital Connects?
    SADC has a number of entities directing the work: Governing Board: The SADC board is made of the three original funders representing each sector, those board members are: Luisa Casso/Chair/private sector/Toyota Brian Dillard/Vice Chair/public sector/COSA, Office of Innovation Laura Cole/Secretary/public sector/Bexar County, BiblioTech Members: The members of SADC are the funders of the plan and roadmap. These funders include private sector and public sector investors in San Antonio and Greater Bexar County. Staff: The staffing of SADC includes an Executive Director The Executive Director will be, as the board has been, supported by consultants who are fundraising and activating on the plan and the many operational details. Executive Director: TBD Consultant: Diane Warren/Bounceology Consultant: Anita Fernández/OCI Group 501c3 Fiscal Agent: The agent for SADC is greater: SATX, led by Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, CEO Advisory Board Community Organizations
  • How do I contact SA Digital Connects?
    Please send an email to the following, and we will be back in touch in a timely fashion. General information: Connect@SADigitalConnects.com Press inquiries: Michelle Martinez at Connect@SADigitalConnects.com Funder information: Diane Warren of Bounce at diane@bounceology.com
  • Where can I learn the definitions to some of the terms used in this plan. like digital inclusion, digital equity, digital literacy, etc.?"
    The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is a community of digital inclusion practitioners and advocates that provide a unified voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs. The NDIA offers definitions that are a helpful reference to the public, found here: www.digitalinclusion.org/definitions/ Also, Connected Nation provides a glossary of terms, found here: www.connectednation.org/glossary-of-terms/
  • Why should digital equity be prioritized over other initiatives the government would be responsible to implement?
    Digital equity is an enabler of almost all other initiatives and policy priorities facing societies and governments in the 21st century. As we continue to live more of our lives on the internet each year, the modern digital ecosystem continues to catalyze profound and fundamental changes across the economy, culture, and social institutions. To the average citizen, being connected to the internet has never been more important, as shown by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, it became clear how deep our reliance on connected technologies and internet truly is, enabling participation in the economy and job market, attending school, receiving medical services and much more. In this context, digital is not a competing policy priority but rather the foundation of many other social goods, both public and private.
  • How were the statistics on societal ROI or increased GDP calculated?
    Research from Ecotone Analysis on the impact of TechPaks, a Minnesota initiative to bring computers, internet and digital literacy found to residents without broadband access found that for every $1 invested in expanding access $2.40 of socioeconomic benefits resulted. The monetized benefits include: 1) Increased earnings from increased employment and promotion, and education due to digital skills gained 2) Improved school outcomes for children with access to a computer 3) Improved quality of life / value of the personal use of a computer, among several other benefits
  • How did San Antonio become a digital leader?
    San Antonio’s recognition is as a digital leader is a testament to the leaders in the City, the County and the Community. People said there was a problem and this needs to get solved and were willing to invest behind this. This disposition to action and to getting to “yes” is the driving force that we hope to capture and continue to display in our effort.
  • What other cities have cited San Antonio as a digital leader or role model?
    Dallas, El Paso as part of the interviews conducted when developing our digital equity strategy Seattle’s Internet for All Plan references San Antonio several times as a case study of another US city undertaking meaningful initiatives to close the digital divide
  • Was digital inclusion an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic?
    Digital inclusion, or the lack thereof, has been a persistent issue since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic merely exposed and highlighted 1) the ways in which digital technology supported almost all essential features and activities of modern life and 2) how many people lacked access internet and how that impacted their ability to meaningfully participate in modern society.
  • How were the broadband allocation specific to San Antonio / Bexar County calculated?
    Out of the $80M in CARES funding Bexar received in May 2020, $8M was explicitly put to digital inclusion and technology. This was used as proxy to calculate most of the broadband allocation where the precise numbers were not exactly known, with the exception of housing funding which relied on the 1-2% estimation based on the percentage of household income that goes to broadband on average.
  • How much additional funding could be made available through local funds or philanthropic sources?
    Philanthropies and private sector foundations have invested more than $500K in the development on the plan and the immediate next steps towards implementation We have seen the ability of this community to come together when needed and raise philanthropic funds for items big and small – including a recent donation from the Spurs to print flyers for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program While there is no definitely amount of funding that can be made available through local and philanthropic sources, we will take the necessary actions to ensure we are getting our fair share of funding and putting our plan in best position for success
  • How was the speed aspiration determined? How was the affordability goal determined?
    The speed aspiration was determined based on an assessment of 1) the quality of service households will need now and in the future to meet their needs 2) the relative social and economic impact of higher speeds 3) trends in national and global speed targets that have been increasing over the years to account for the anticipated uptick in future demand for data and new applications. The affordability target is rooted in the 1-2% estimation of household income that goes to broadband on average.
  • How can we measure the equitable adoption goal?
    Through direct usage data and household surveys (e.g., SASpeakUp) we can measure how successful our efforts to drive adoption at adequate speeds actually are. We currently know the locations and much of the demographic profiles of those without broadband access today, so it would be possible to know whether efforts to close the divide are actually serving their intended populations
  • How will the highest need population segments be determined?
    One defining boundary is between those households today which are unserved and underserved. Unserved households are those without broadband or access to the internet today while underserved are those households that have internet access but not at speeds and service quality that would support essential and common digital activities (e.g., remote work/learning, telehealth). While both situations pose equity issues that must be remedied, it should be the priority to connect unserved households before upgrading the quality of service for underserved household should the two goals conflict.
  • How were the size of the divide numbers calculated?
    The size of the divide was based on a three main data sources: SASpeakUp (the household survey issued by the city of San Antonio), BroadbandNow (a research and policy advocacy organization with a mission to make broadband internet available to all Americans), and American Community Survey, or ACS (demographic data collected by the Census bureau). The main numbers on the page are primarily based on responses from SASpeakUp, where residents reported whether or not they had access to internet. Overall, approximately 20% of residents reported lacking internet access. ACS puts the number of households in Bexar County at 640K (2.7 persons per households) which after applying the percentage of those without access in Bexar comes out to 130K households. Similar analysis was used to estimate the number of households without access to devices.
  • How did you calculate the size of divide specific to each barrier?
    Sizing of barriers is based on responses from SASpeakUp, in which residents without access reported what their primary reasons for not having internet were (e.g., slow/unreliable service, high prices) These estimates were triangulated based on the size of the barriers based on BroadbandNow (for average speeds and number of providers in an area), as well as by ACS data (for average income levels)
  • How do these numbers compare to before the pandemic?
    These numbers are equivalent to the size of the divide before the pandemic. The pandemic did not directly change the size of the pandemic, although some families may have temporarily gained access (for example through subsidy programs) and some households may have lost access (for example, if they became more housing insecure. The pandemic highlighted the inequities between those with and without access.
  • How do the various adoption barriers impact different populations or regions of Bexar County?
    While the digital divide impacts many segments of society, lack of digital access most acutely impacts those that are low-income, lower-education, and not-English proficient. For example, 90% of those with households making over $100k have Internet access, vs. just 66% of those under $25k. Similarly, 78% of those with only a high school education are in households with Internet access, vs. 91% for those with an advanced degree. Among those that are English proficient, 83% have internet access while only 67% of those with limited English proficiency are connected. Among households without internet access, 70% are low-income or households with school-aged children; in total, there are over 30K disconnected households in Bexar County with school-aged children. The divide is also geographically concentrated, with the most pronounced gaps for those living in South and East areas of Bexar County; in the county’s most Southern census tract, 30% of people lack internet access.
  • Why is there a high level of disconnected populations in downtown San Antonio?
    There are a few factors at play. This reflects much of what we know about the nature of the digital divide in San Antonio/Bexar: affordability is the primary access barrier facing households. Although much of the necessary infrastructure needed to support expanded broadband access at adequate speeds already exists, the prices put forward by many providers are still too far above what many families can afford. In addition, this also reflects the history of digital redlining in the US and the prioritization of improved infrastructure for higher income areas Finally, households living in the inner city may face adoption barriers, including low digital literacy, mistrust of providers and the government, or lack of information on available options.
  • What are the blank spots on the Bexar County map?
    Military bases
  • Why use the 100/100 speed aspiration when families are able to connect sufficiently with 25/3?
    25/3 is already an outdated speed standard that does not reflect what the typical family of four needs to support simultaneous internet usage for non-entrainment related activities (e.g., work, school, Zoom). 100/100 is a forward-looking aspiration that considers the anticipated growth in data demand and currently known applications.
  • What is the overlap between these populations that cannot access high-speed internet vs. pay for it affordably?
    Approximately 35K households (70% of households with limited availability; 40% of household with limited affordability)
  • Does a list exist of all community organizations that were engaged?
    Yes, it is included as part of the materials prepared throughout the preparation of the digital equity strategy
  • How were the needs of disconnected households evaluated in the creation of this plan?
    Household survey: the city of San Antonio issued a household digital inclusion assessment survey that asked households to state whether they had internet access, what their barriers to access are, what activities and needs the internet facilitates for them, the devices used to access the internet, among other questions Focus groups: For particular segments of the population (e.g., veterans, small businesses) focus groups were conducted to get a more detailed view of how households interact with digital and what their main issues and concerns around access are Community inventory survey: Dozens of community groups that intimately and consistently interact with residents, many of whom are disparately impacted by a lack of digital access, gave accounts of what their organizations are doing to improve digital inclusion and what they have observed among their members who need digital support
  • Why does the sum of services offered add up to more than the 99 survey respondents?
    Many organizations offer more than one service
  • Will a list of these offered services be publicized for community organizations and household to leverage?
    Yes, we will aggregate a directory of all the community organizations offering services around digital inclusion on our public website We aim for this to be a tool for households and residents and to enable organizations to continually add to this list so that it is always up to date.
  • How were these eight specific initiatives determined?
    These initiatives are based around the barriers to broadband access identified in San Antonio / Bexar: limited affordability, inadequate or unavailable service, adoption barriers (e.g., low digital literacy, lack of trust, privacy issues) and lack of access to devices. These initiatives address those barriers and the enabling structures needed to execute on them (e.g., collecting and tracking data/KPIs, developing an appropriate operating model). These initiatives came out of extensive research conducted with experts on broadband and digital technology, consultants with expertise on the digital divide, benchmarks and examples from other cities implementing strategies to close the digital divide, and input from key community stakeholders and organizations that have been involved in digital divide and equity-focused work since long before the pandemic
  • Have these collection of initiatives worked to bridge the digital divide for other cities?
    No other city has done exactly this set of initiatives since these were developed to address the unique nature of the digital divide in San Antonio/Bexar, but other cities and states have implemented similar initiatives, and we have complied extensive benchmarks for comparison across each initiative. Some cities like Chattanooga, TN have already achieved great success in not only expanding digital access to more residents but experiencing highly positive returns to society and the economy. However, time will tell the relative success of efforts across the county due the recent interest in digital inclusion spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What role will the city/county play in the deployment of infrastructure? Will it be the service provider to homes and businesses?
    The public sector is expected to work in tandem with internet service providers to make broadband deployment a reality. The city/county will primarily do this by using incoming federal funding to run an RFP process to select the providers who can deploy fiber and other connected infrastructure meet the aspirations of the digital equity strategy. The end customer relationship and services will be managed by the service providers with the city financing deployment and building out an open access middle mile network that all service providers can share equally and economically to deliver services to customers and residents.
  • What are the funding sources for the upfront costs? For the steady state costs?
    We aim to maximize use of all available sources to cover the both the upfront investment as well as steady state costs The federal recovery funds, including broadband specific funds like the Emergency Connectivity Fund and more flexible funds like the state and local federal recovery funds, offer a significant funding opportunity. We estimate that $500M in federal recovery funding, flowing through at the federal, state, and local level, could be allocated to SA / Bexar County broadband. In addition, we will purse opportunities for other state and local funding, including municipal bonds and philanthropic sources. Local operating budgets (City, County, District) and any new federal programs offer methods to fund efforts in the long term.
  • Why is the cost of connectivity so disproportionally high?
    Deploying and operating the infrastructure required to support broadband access is the most expensive line item. The capital and labor needed to deploy thousands of miles of fiber lines running through a sophisticated, complex network architecture that depends on extremely skilled operators with deep expertise is not inconsequential. While a high upfront cost, we have seen that investments in digital access generate a positive ROI in 1-2 years and continue to generate GDP benefits annually thereafter We also recognize we are in a unique moment to make this investment given the federal governments focus to invest in infrastructure and equity We can invest now to reduce the capital cost burden to ISPs and radically reduce their ongoing maintenance costs
  • What expenses should be prioritized if we cannot obtain the required funding?
    Solving the part of the problem for any one person does not solve the problem for anyone If we cannot obtain the full required funding, we will need to assess options, including prioritizing the highest need population segments (e.g., students) or areas (e.g., South, East of the region) and consider options to build momentum for future investment.
  • How will each of these milestones be tracked and verified?
    The entire data management process will depend on the establishment of a single source of truth to manage the data collection process and coordinate activity and information sharing among involved stakeholders. This will include the creation of aggregated data outputs such as publicly available online portals, dashboards, and equity maps that will help to inform targeted solutions, track progress over time, and rally external support for the overall plan We will continue to triangulate across sources to best assess progress and continue to push to move from self-reported data (e.g., surveys) to verified, granular surveys (e.g., direct data feed on usage)
  • Are there intermediate goals from month 18 to year 4?
    Based on exact approaches taken we will consider interim adoption goals to ensure https://files.slack.com/files-pri/T77AKTKA6-F02613D7XDM/image.png we reach we are on track to reach out goals.
  • How will the data be collected?
    The city/county will work with data owners (e.g., ISPs, CBOs) to collect and compile data into a single database that can serve as the “single source of truth” on the progress of the plan. In collaboration with data owners, incentives to encourage data owners to voluntarily share their data into the single database. Furthermore, the data management entity will establish a regular cadence of touchpoints with stakeholders and data owners to ensure a continuous inflow of fresh data that can accurately track progress.
  • Why were these performance metrics chosen?
    These metrics align with the overall aspirations of our digital equity strategy that seeks to ensure that 1) all households have access (Access to 2) high quality (i.e., minimum speeds of 100/100 Mbps (Availability) and 3) affordable internet and devices (Affordability) in addition to 5) the ability and motivation to use the internet to meet their needs (Adoption) and 6) enable their full participation in the economy & society (Equity). By having clear insight into where the SA/Bexar community is at any given time in relation to these metrics, we will be able to clearly determine the extent of the progress achieved in closing the digital divide
  • Does this plan have the support of City / County leaders like the Mayor, City Council, or County Judge?"
    We are in the process of setting up conversation with all those decisionmakers and hope to count on their support in making this plan a reality for households in need of digital access and a larger than stand to substantially benefit the more if its residents is can get online We have solicited the input and incorporated the feedback from the more than 140 organizations engaged as part of our effort. Our plan remains a living and breathing document, we will continue to have conversations, solicit input, and buy-in as we move to activation
  • What are the checks and balances between the two entities?
    The private and philanthropic leaders serve as a counter-balance to the City and County leadership, publishing a “state of broadband” report to track progress and controlling the level the advocacy for the plan and needed funding The City and County leadership will have the ability to organize, activate, and direct investment to the critical entities and community leaders
  • What is the timeframe of these near-term implementation activities?
    We are beginning to act – starting today. We anticipate in the next 6 months – 1 year we will have made significant progress on each of the initiatives listed
  • What is the engagement strategy for each stakeholder? How do we bring all stakeholders to the same table?
    Although all stakeholders will generally rally around expanding broadband access and the attendant benefits to equity, society, and the economy, our message must be tailored to the specific interests of each stakeholder Educational institutions: Frame digital inclusion as an enabler to quality, equitable education that will help students learn and excel Community organizations / philanthropy: Emphasize the impact of digital on having a positive impact on the lives of individuals and households, living fuller lives with greater participation in modern society Private sector: Appeal to public recognition and corporate social responsibility goals City, county, state, and federal policymakers: Appeal to the impact on digital on creating a more equitable and prosperous society that will benefit constituents

Click below to view the information provided in the Digital Equity Plan by category and population segment:

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