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August 22, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Chattanooga only Tennessee city named a 2022 “Digital Inclusion Trailblazer”

By Shannon Smith, Teknovation Assistant Editor, PYA

Chattanooga and Hamilton County continue to be recognized for their work in making the internet accessible to everyone who lives there.

This week the city and county were named a “2022 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer” by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. This is the third time they’ve been recognized in this way for their leadership in digital literacy and equity.

To earn this distinction, cities or counties must meet a minimum of three of six criteria to qualify for a nomination. Those include having full-time local government staff, having a digital inclusion plan, an open-access coalition, survey research, funded digital inclusion programing and efforts to increase affordability of home broadband service. Chattanooga-Hamilton County is one of only nine municipalities this year to meet all six.

“Like water or power, the internet has become an essential need for our residents, which is why it’s so important to ensure that everyone, regardless of income or neighborhood, has access,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “From HCS EdConnect for school age students to skills programs like EMPACT and Tech Goes Home Chattanooga, we’re proud of the many collaborative service programs in our community that are expanding internet access and advancing digital literacy across the city.”

HCS EdConnect was a key component in earning Chattanooga-Hamilton County this distinction. It’s a partnership that provides high speed broadband service to Hamilton County Schools students and their families.

“Closing the digital divide for our students can be life changing, not just for them but for their entire families,” explained HCS Superintendent Justin Robertson. “Our teachers can connect not only with their classes more easily, but also with parents. These moments of connection might feel incremental but they contribute to the overall success of individual students in profound and lasting ways.”

Efforts continue to spread digital access to everyone living in that area, especially as it continues to grow and attract more people.

“So much of modern life happens online and everyone deserves to fully participate,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “This county has seen such unparalleled economic development over the last decade and we believe this quality of community support available is a large component of that.”

As the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act continues to roll out, it’s expected that city and county digital inclusion leadership, like Chattanooga and Hamilton County’s, will continue to become more necessary and influential.

With $65 billion in federal funding available for broadband deployment, affordability and digital literacy through that act, closing the digital divide once and for all becomes more feasible. Chattanooga and Hamilton County’s leadership look forward to being an example for other cities when it comes to internet access for all.

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