Exclusive poll finds Detroiters want affordable broadband access and support a public high-speed internet network

Exclusive poll finds Detroiters want affordable broadband access and support a public high-speed internet network

A recent poll of Detroit residents supports the need for a strategic, city-led approach to bridging the digital divide. The survey of 600 Detroit adults, conducted in April and May 2022 by Washington, D.C.-based GQR, reveals 2 out of 3 Detroiters believe the digital divide in Detroit is a major problem, and 83% favor a public high-speed internet network where the city builds a fiber optic infrastructure. Multiple providers will have access to the same fiber infrastructure, fostering competition and lowering costs for customers.

The survey followed the April announcement of Detroit’s plan to bring high-speed internet access to Hope Village on the city’s west side, with a long-term goal of installing a fiber optic network across the city that would make high-speed internet service accessible to every home at a lower cost. Hope Village was selected for an initial $10 million pilot project because the area experienced a prolonged internet outage during the height of the pandemic.

“Detroit is joining more than 600 cities across the country that have already successfully established a municipal network of some kind,” said Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s Director of Digital Inclusion. “Through a variety of existing funding sources, including the American Rescue Plan Act, we are committed to giving every Detroiter the opportunity to fully benefit from an expanding digital world. This survey demonstrates the need for digital access and desire from our residents who are eager to participate.”

Key Survey Findings Include:

· 20% of Detroit adults do not have a home internet connection, 1 in 4 of whom report that they cannot get broadband service installed at their residence.

· Cost is cited as the reason most don’t have a home internet connection (1 in 2).

· 63% of Detroiters without broadband say they would be likely to choose it if an affordable option were available.

· 1 in 5 parents reported a lack of reliable internet service during the pandemic, which forced their children to complete schoolwork on public Wi-Fi, a cellphone, or not at all.

· 77% of respondents believe the government has a responsibility to expand high speed internet access.

· 78% strongly agree that “expanding broadband access in low income or underserved areas is important to America’s economic future.” Further, 3 in 4 strongly agree this “will help create jobs and grow the economy in those areas.”

GQR conducted the survey on behalf of Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a citywide, data-driven digital inclusion strategy. With funding from the Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation, and Connect for Humanities, the city commissioned a study for initial research, engineering, and network design.

“Bringing high-speed internet to every home and business in Detroit is how we continue our city’s renaissance and ensure our top place in the global market,” Edmonds said. “We must take advantage of this opportunity to keep our citizens fully and completely empowered in the 21st century.”

The complete 2022 Detroit Internet Use Survey can be found on Connect 313’s homepage at connect313.org or by clicking here.

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From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

“I worked in Detroit, I play in Detroit, I worship and go to church in Detroit,” says David Underwood, chair of Connect 313’s Devices and Connectivity committee. “I care a lot about the city, and I care a lot about its people, and I want to make a difference.”

David Underwood has spent nearly four decades in Detroit. For 38 of those years, he worked with DTE Energy, most recently as a principal account manager. He retired in 2021, but these days he’s busier than ever. With Connect 313, David is focused on activating the community and making sure residents have the resources and devices they need to access the internet.

“I consider myself a change agent and a champion for the underdog. I’m trying to make a difference out here,” he says. “Those who don’t have access to tech are finding themselves at a risk and that needs to change.”

Since starting with Connect 313, David has helped to coordinate computer giveaways and has worked to connect people with subsidized internet access funded by the federal government. However, he says there’s still work to be done.

“We’re looking forward to building an open-access fiber optic infrastructure in Detroit, beginning in the Hope Village neighborhood,” he says. “It’s also crucial that we get more community engagement and get more residents involved.”

David is working to do just that by connecting with corporate partners and community-based organizations, spreading the word on billboards, and creating campaigns that people without internet access will see.

In addition to his work with Connect 313, David is the managing director for Detroit Community Care Network, a position he’s held since 2017. The faith-based organization serves people and families by connecting them to programs, services, resources, and information.

In so many ways, he is proud to be a champion for the underserved in the Motor City.

To reach David, email dunderwood@tnhccn.com.

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Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis proudly calls herself a ‘legacy Detroiter.’ As Connect 313’s Policy, Advocacy, and Ecosystem vice chair, she supports the city where she was born and raised by connecting people to digital resources.

“A big portion is connecting with the community where they are. You can’t assume that people know what’s out there,” Kaleena says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much is out there today and how accessible things are, people just don’t know.”

One way Kaleena is helping Connect 313 spread the message is through Digital Inclusion Week, which will be held Oct. 3 – 7, 2022. The annual event promotes digital equity in Detroit by raising awareness about home internet access, devices, technology training programs, and many important topics and issues.

“Last year was my first year with Digital Inclusion Week,” she recalls. “This year, we’re looking forward to putting on an amazing week for the city that will be more inclusive and have more in-person engagement, while remaining COVID safe.”

In addition to her work with Connect 313, Kaleena serves as program director for NPower where she helps launch digital careers for underrepresented and underserved youth, military veterans, and their spouses.

According to NPower, today more than 50% of all jobs require some degree of technology and skill. Kaleena says that number will increase to more than 70% by 2030.

“The jobs are quickly growing, but there are certain people in our community who aren’t necessarily ready because of the barriers they face. Connect 313 navigates those barriers, and bridges the gap to help people overcome those barriers,” she says. “If people can’t afford internet, we have plans for that. There are parts of the city where fiber is being infused. People don’t know what they don’t know, and we need to be that voice to spread the word.”

As a lifelong Detroiter, Kaleena feels a special connection to the Motor City and wants to do everything she can to advocate for technology access and education, especially for Detroit youth.

“It means something to me to know that for my children and their peers, if they want to get into tech, they don’t have to go to Silicon Valley. They can get the skills and training and jobs right here in Detroit,” Kaleena says.

 

You can reach Kaleena by emailing Kaleena.Louis@npower.org.

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The White House

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet:

In a Press Release issued by the Biden-Harris Administration  announced over $25 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding to Help Ensure Every American Has Access to High Speed, Affordable Internet.  The City of Detroit is listed as an example of how this work is successfully being carried out.

“Detroit, Michigan will begin construction this summer, using $10 million in Fiscal Recovery Funds, to pilot a fiber-to-the-home connectivity project to approximately 2,000 homes in the Hope Village neighborhood with affordable 1 Gig service.”

To learn more about Detroit’s Fiber to home project checkout our blog post about why this work is important and the City of Detroit’s Digital Inclusion & Equity Page for updates.

You can read the full fact sheet detailing the funding for the American Rescue Plan Funding here.

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Shadora Ford Asks, “What is the Barrier?”

Shadora Ford Asks, “What is the Barrier?”

Shadora Ford wants to help families not just survive but thrive. As Connect 313’s Special Projects and Shared Resources chair she provides education, training, and resources to connect the public with essential technology to help bridge the digital divide.

In 2010, at just 19 years old, Shadora founded Destined for Greatness, a Detroit-based organization that educates, encourages, and empowers young women to become strong leaders. To date, Destined for Greatness has helped more than 5,000 young women and served more than 10,000 families through mentoring, job training, food drives, and more.

“In order for a house to stand you have to fix the foundation,” said Shadora. “We’re helping fulfill the destiny of households, not just women, but all families and people.”

A few years ago, Shadora began conducting research studies to learn more about Detroit’s digital divide. “Is the barrier the devices, the connectivity, or is it the literacy of the individual?” she said. “Research shows it’s a mix.”

Which meant the approach had to be multifaceted. She’s teaching students Microsoft Office, showing seniors how to utilize technology to take part in telehealth appointments and send emails, and connecting veterans to digital resources.

“Some people say they don’t want to use digital technology because it’s too much, but that’s fear. I want people to get over the fear by teaching them and finding creative ways to do that,” said Shadora.

Looking ahead, Shadora wants to see all seven districts thrive with digital literacy programs. She plans to expand her research and outreach to ensure Detroiters know tech assistance is available.

“Being here for the past 30 years and loving the community made me want to be an ambassador,” said Shadora. “I want Detroiters to love Detroit and take care of Detroit, love the place they live and be connected.”

To reach Shadora, email dfgmentoring@yahoo.com or call 313-414-3680.

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Connect 313’s Jamie Harris has 3 Main Goals

Connect 313’s Jamie Harris has 3 Main Goals

Connect 313’s co-chair of Digital Literacy & Skilling, Jamie Harris, has spent more than a decade connecting the community to career opportunities, including many in the tech industry. Her three main goals are to train, empower, and employ. Jamie is the founder and CEO of DSDT a Detroit School for Digital Technology. The state licensed technology trade school offers nationally accredited programs designed for the world of entertainment, media, and technology.

“It’s about believing in your community,” she says. “When I started this school people thought I was crazy.”

She has certainly proven them wrong. Her hard work and experience paired perfectly with Connect 313’s mission to bridge the digital divide.

“We’re all really dedicated to the mission of serving our community,” she says. “If we see a need, we get on it and make it happen. It’s not for the faint of heart and it takes a team with passion.”

Last year, Jamie served as Connect 313’s chair for Special Projects and Shared Resources where she helped with the budget and spearheaded strategies that introduced construction workers to digital architecture.

“You can drive around anywhere and see building after building going up,” Jamie says. “We’re innovative, there are so many ideas and city initiatives, as well as new entrepreneurs, black owned businesses, and women-owned businesses that are popping up everywhere around here.”

As the demand for information technology grows, Jamie and the Connect 313 team are working to advance digital equity by creating neighborhood tech hubs Detroiters can use to access computers and the internet.

“There is such a huge demand and the greater we evolve as a community and as a city, the greater the community thrives,” she explains.

Jamie is proud to call Detroit home and eager to continue her work connecting community members to resources, education, and support that will set them up for success in the ever-evolving digital world.

“Detroit has been looked at as an underperformer in the past and it’s great to see Detroit expanding and innovating,” she says. “Our city is now back on the map. We’re

all stronger together. It’s rewarding to see what we’ve done and to be a part of that growth and that history.”

To reach Jamie, email jamie@dsdt.tech.

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How Lashawna Manigault Works With Connect 313

How Lashawna Manigault Works With Connect 313

Lashawna Manigault knows firsthand how difficult it is to own a small business and how crucial internet access and connectivity can be. That’s why she’s supporting small business owners across Detroit as Connect 313’s chair of Policy, Advocacy & Ecosystem.

“If COVID showed us nothing else, it’s that people need to be on the cutting edge of technology. Businesses have had to pivot their business models, taking COVID into consideration,” she says.

During the pandemic, Lashawna discovered the digital technology learning curve was leaving numerous small business owners behind. Without computers and internet access, many were missing out on grants and financial opportunities.

“Businesses, like hair salons and barbers, have had to put COVID safety plans in place and do new things, like create new platforms for calendars and scheduling, connect through Zoom, and utilize online platforms to connect to the resources available to help their businesses stay upright,” she says.

Lashawna learned about Connect 313 while on a digital divide committee. She knew Connect 313’s mission would pair perfectly with the work she’d been doing as the Director of Small Business Retention & Expansion for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

“Being able to bridge the work I’ve done with one committee and make sure small businesses are a focus and initiative within Connect 313 is a very important objective of mine,” she says.

Lashawna is currently working hard behind the scenes, planning for Detroit’s annual Digital Inclusion Week, which will be held the first full week of October. The multi-day event educates and connects Detroiters by offering tools and platforms for small businesses, digital literacy training for seniors, hands-on activities for students, and more.

As a native Detroiter, Lashawna is proud to help empower small businesses in our community by advocating for policy change, creating digital resources, and ensuring residents have affordable, reliable internet access.

“It’s a privilege and it keeps me going to be able to help people be their best selves and do their best work in this city,” Lashawna says. “It’s a collaborative effort.”

To reach Lashawna, email manigaultinc@gmail.com.

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Meet Connect 313’s TeQuion Brookins

Meet Connect 313’s TeQuion Brookins

TeQuion Brookins is passionate about setting people up for success. And that’s exactly what she does in her role as the 2022 chair of the Structure & Operations Committee for Connect 313. TeQuion helps develop processes and policies that clarify and streamline Connect 313’s work that aims to end Detroit’s digital divide.

“Our committee is filled with passionate Detroiters who are equally committed to removing barriers and ensuring fidelity to our purpose,” she says. “The work we’ve done has had a visible impact on the operations of Connect 313 and that’s been fulfilling to witness.”

Over the last year, TeQuion has helped establish systems for committees to review community suggestions, created presentation guidelines to ensure suggestions get publicized equitably, and constructed a conflict-of-interest policy to support trust-building and transparency.

This year, her team is focused on reaching even more digitally disconnected Detroiters and she encourages everyone to take part.

A native Detroiter, TeQuion is also the founder and COO of the Minority Freedom Community Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans through economic support, social programs, and holistic wellness.

After learning about the technological struggles many Detroit students were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, she knew something needed to be done.

“We were hearing stories of blocks of students sharing one neighbor’s computer to access the then new virtual learning offerings. We heard even more stories of students who just couldn’t attend school for weeks due to not having access to digital devices or internet,” she said.

TeQuion was just beginning to work on developing a solution when she discovered Connect 313 and began serving on early workgroups to help organize the initiative.

“Detroit has always been home for me. I love how real the people are, our style, our culture,” said TeQuion. “I hope people feel empowered to get involved and share their ideas… We want to hear from you about what we can do to end the digital divide.”

To reach TeQuion, email: Tequion@mifreedomcf.org.

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Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village

Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village  

Losing internet access for 45 days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is something Jeff Jones will never forget. The longtime HOPE Village resident, a husband and father of school-aged children, recounted that harrowing ordeal during a series of community meetings held at Focus:HOPE to discuss Detroit’s digital equity plans. The City of Detroit hosted the meetings. 

“For one or two days, [losing internet access] is not a problem. You can do without your Netflix,” he told the crowd. “But my kids were in school virtually. We lost our internet, and we lost our phone service. Instantly our neighborhood was shunted back to the 19th century. We couldn’t connect to the internet. Our lives were interrupted.” 

 Jones reached out to everyone he could. Day two became week two and his frustration and the community’s hardship grew. Eventually, he connected with Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion, and service was restored. But that 45-day outage is a stark example of why an investment in the city’s internet infrastructure is urgently needed. 

 Beginning this summer, a $10 million pilot project will deliver high-speed fiber optic internet access to every home and business in HOPE Village, located between the Lodge and Davison Freeways, Dexter to the west, and Hamilton to the east. Using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the effort will dramatically improve access and reliability. Property owners will be invited to ‘opt in’ and participate. 

 “We hope this new project will reconnect our neighborhood, [and] put us on a path to a bright and prosperous 21st century,” Jones said. 

Connect 313 Leads the Charge 

The idea for an automated open access network originated with a recommendation from Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a city-wide, data-driven inclusion strategy. The Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation, and Connect Humanity provided funding for initial research, engineering, and network design. 

“We want every Detroiter to have affordable, reliable and abundant digital access that elevates local communities and accelerates opportunity,” said Edmonds. “Using public funds to invest in an open public infrastructure is something that will spur private investment and drive private competition.” 

How will Detroit’s fiber optic infrastructure work? Multiple providers will have access to the same fiber lines, fostering competition and lowering costs for customers. The city is studying different ways to minimize costs, as well as a sliding scale for residents with lower incomes. 

Open access operates like our airports and roads,” Edmonds explained. “The city provides the infrastructure and internet service providers can use the fiber lines the city installs to deliver service to residents.” 

It is estimated that a fiber optic system will last more than 50 years. As more internet speed is needed, cables will not need to be changed, making this an effective long-term solution. The goal is to eventually install fiber optic lines to homes and businesses across the entire city. 

 “It’s about making sure that every single person is empowered with the devices, with the internet connectivity and the digital literacy training that they deserve, and that they have a right to,” added Laura Granneman, Vice President, Rocket Community Fund.” 

 “There absolutely is a digital divide and gap in this city,” said Angela Calloway, Detroit City Councilwoman for District 2. “Your zip code should not matter whether or not you have access. I am so absolutely proud of the efforts that you are making.” 

Information and updates will be posted on the city’s Digital Inclusion & Equity page. 

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2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

Detroit Means Business  hosted its inaugural small business summit on May 2, 2022.  The event  offered tangible takeaways for strengthening business, including 1:1 Expert Consultations, Live Panels and Workshops.  Connect 313 was proud to participate in this event to support local Detroit businesses utilize digital resources to promote and strengthen their business.  Myka Burley Connect 313’s Community Manager is an active participant in Detroit Means Business as a member of small business x digital divide committee.  Autumn Evans Connect 313’s Operations Director spoke on a panel about pro tips for digital business success, where she also shared details about how the city of Detroit is working to bridge the digital divide.  Qumisha Goss Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Subject Matter Expert also attended the morning session to give 1:1 Consultations on Digital resources.

During our 1:1 Consultations we met with the following Detroit businesses

Some lessons we’ve learned and some tips for small businesses.

  1. Maintaining a digital presence takes time and dedication.  Set a schedule for yourself to regularly post to or update your website or social media presence. Rachel Wood of the Art Loft has a beautifully updated website and strong web presence and she shared with us that she spends a lot of her time keeping her web presence up to date.  There are also digital tools available to assist you with this process. Learn More.
  2. Digital Marketing can be daunting, finding your tribe or a group of like-minded people can help you get a leg up.   The Gospel Music Cafe has successfully marketed their ball room dance classes and poetry events by sharing their events with local facebook groups.
  3. Your Business Acumen, Knowledge and Passion will drive your business. Digital Tools and Technology are just tools to support you. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices, and options.  You know your business best, think critically about what you need help with and access your own willingness to learn new technology or systems your self or a hire a professional as needed. Valaise  at Tried and True Financial shared her digital business Card with us, a cool digital tool by HiHello.Hi Hello Business card

Check out https://www.detroitmeansbusiness.org/  for more tools and resources to support your business.

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