Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Minneapolis Digital Inclusion CBA

In Minneapolis, a 2006 CBA has demonstrated that CBAs need not be limited to physical developments. The agreement was made in relation to the creation of a city-wide wi-fi network and is designed to minimize the digital divide by making the city’s internet service more accessible to low income and other “digitally disenfrachised” residents. The idea to use the CBA model arose as a hybrid, combining elements of CBAs and municipal cable franchise agreements. After a coalition was formed and presented its case to the city council, the city amended its request for vendor proposals to require internet providers to address the digital divide. The city council also authorized the formation of a Digital Inclusion Task Force to work with the community coalition to assess the community’s digital needs and develop a CBA proposal. The task force and coalition worked extensively with the community to develop the CBA, and the vendor contract ultimately included a $500,000 fund for digital inclusion and provisions for advertising revenues to be added to the upfront amount, subsidized internet services for more than 100 community groups and nonprofits and a guarantee of network neutrality. Organizers in Chicago are working on negotiating a similar digital access CBA, and Microsoft has voiced its support for Minneapolis’ plan to address the digital divide.
Several reports about the Digital Inclusion CBA are available at the Digital Access Project's website.
Community organizers should also take a look at these talks given by Catherine Settani and Jim Farstad, who both played pivotal roles in developing the Digital Inclusion CBA. They are positively inspiring.

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