Newark honored by National Digital Inclusion Alliance for its efforts to close digital divide

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced Monday that the Brick City has been honored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as a 2023 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer for its efforts to close the digital divide.

This year, Baraka launched a new effort to ensure that every resident and business has access to free or very low-cost, high-speed internet.

The public engagement efforts began around two critical components of the plan: First, a resident, business owner and community group broadband survey and internet speed test that is used to advocate for federal grant funding to expand Newark’s nation-leading fiber network. Second, a citywide marketing and communications campaign to encourage eligible residents to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

“My goal is to ensure every Newarker has access to free or very low-cost, high-speed internet,” Baraka said. “As the COVID-19 pandemic showed us, reliable and affordable connectivity is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must have.’ From remote learning to telework, our children, families and workforce will fall behind if we do not have quality and reliable internet access. We are leaving no stone unturned to reach this goal, including expanding Newark Fiber, public Wi-Fi service and working with internet service providers to extend coverage and options to every door in the city.”

As the only designated municipality in the state of New Jersey, Newark is closing the digital divide in a number of ways, from expanding its municipally run Newark Fiber network, to bringing in new ISPs, finding ways to donate and refurbish city equipment, train the next generation of technicians and ensure digital literacy courses are available for all.

Combined, the city is moving the needle to ensure Newarkers have the connectivity and skills needed to thrive.

“Newark has worked tirelessly to increase access to broadband, digital skills and access to tech-enabled devices. Our agencies and private and nonprofit partners continue to find creative ways to ensure every Newark household has the connectivity they need to be part of the innovation economy,” Aaron Meyerson, Invest Newark’s chief innovation economy officer and director of broadband, said.

About half of Newark’s 110,000 households are eligible for the ACP program. With outreach underway, nearly 30% of the entire city now has high-speed internet through the ACP, saving Newark families nearly $1 million a month.

Moreover, the city of Newark has increased the city’s Newark Fiber network by 30%, connecting businesses, affordable housing development and recreation centers in all five wards to high-speed internet.

“As the IT manager for the city of Newark, I’m proud of our city being recognized as a 2023 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer,” interim IT Manager Sherronda Carroll Wormley said. “Mayor Baraka’s commitment to affordable, high-speed internet for every resident is driving transformative initiatives, from expanding Newark Fiber to fostering partnerships. This award reflects our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide and empower our community.”

This year, Newark joins a record number of Digital Inclusion Trailblazers, with 47 total awardees representing municipal, county and regional governments paving the way for digitally inclusive communities across the U.S.