Smart Growth & Regional Collaboration
MAPC’s Digital Equity team works with cities and towns across Greater Boston to produce digital equity plans which guide municipalities, public housing agencies, and other public entities in their efforts to increase digital equity.
Digital equity plans help municipal leaders better understand residents' access to the internet (and lack thereof), the ways in which access impacts the ability to participate fully in society, and develop actionable steps to improve digital equity.
MAPC is a prequalified planning consultant, as part of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI)'s Municipal Digital Equity Planning program. Municipalities, groups of municipalities, and other local governmental bodies can apply through MBI to participate in a full digital equity planning process or a digital equity charrette (workshop), at no cost to the municipality.
Below, you can find more information about this program, view digital equity plans we have produced in the past, and contact us for more information.
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR DIGITAL EQUITY WORK
Current Digital Equity Planning Projects
Completed Digital Equity Plans
Why Digital Equity planning?
MAPC is, at its core, a planning agency. We work with cities and towns across Greater Boston to produce Digital Equity plans which guide municipalities, public housing agencies, and other public entities in their efforts to increase digital equity.
A digital equity plan is distinct from a broadband master plan, which might detail the specific logistical and financial steps necessary to improve municipally-owned broadband infrastructure. A digital equity plan has a much broader focus: it addresses in-home access, affordability, digital literacy, device access, language access, and other factors which impact communities' experience using the internet far beyond the presence of fiber broadband infrastructure.
MAPC has been prequalified by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (the Commonwealth's broadband office) as a digital equity planning consultant. As part of MBI's Municipal Digital Equity Planning program, municipalities (or groups of municipalities) can apply to receive a digital equity plan or planning charrette at no cost to the municipality. The details of each of these two options are listed below, using language borrowed from MBI's application page. Municipalities may apply directly on the MBI's website here, and should feel free to contact our team with any questions about the application process or the digital equity planning process in general.
Digital Equity Charrette:
The Digital Equity Charrette option is intended to be a low barrier to entry option to support municipalities with limited staff capacity and existing knowledge or activities related to digital equity. As part of the Digital Equity Charrette, consultants will organize and facilitate an intensive workshop engaging municipal officials, community groups, and other stakeholders (“digital equity stakeholders”) to gather information on the needs of residents and the digital equity issues facing the municipality and focusing on the populations most impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. With guidance from the municipality’s chosen consultant, digital equity stakeholders will work together to identify priorities, challenges, and solutions addressing the digital equity divide in the municipality.
Municipal staff should expect charrette meetings to total approximately 8 hours, spread across one or two days with additional time required for site preparation and clean up. Consultants will be expected to work with municipal staff to enable in person, hybrid, or fully virtual activities as needed by the community.
At the end of the charrette, the municipality will receive a summary report deliverable with strategic recommendations to begin, modify, or expand digital equity programs/investments and a detailed, realistic vision for future action.
Digital Equity Planning:
The Digital Equity Planning option is designed to provide municipalities an opportunity to execute a full comprehensive planning exercise. For the Digital Equity Planning option, consultants will provide expanded data collection and dive into deeper conversations and engagement with digital equity stakeholders.
Through the Digital Equity Planning process consultants will provide a comprehensive existing conditions analysis that will provide a baseline overview of digital access and equity gaps affecting the municipality’s populations - including levels of broadband subscription, aggregate speed data, available services and pricing options, and device access/usage.
In coordination with municipal partners, consultants will also engage in an expanded community/stakeholder engagement process to collect a more nuanced and localized layer of data onto the existing conditions analysis that will inform community specific needs related to digital literacy, devices, connectivity, affordability, and other issues related to digital equity.
A suite of strategic recommendations that meet the needs and goals of residents experiencing the impacts of the digital divide will be delivered for consideration and adoption by the municipality. These recommendations will include an assessment of existing or future funding opportunities available through sources that include the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”).
Municipalities will receive a cohesive and comprehensive final deliverable in report format at the end of the planning process. (MBI)
In 2022, MAPC produced a Digital Equity Plan for the cities of Everett, Chelsea, and Revere. The full plan and the standalone Executive Summary can be accessed here: