City leaders release action plan to increase public internet access in Seattle

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and members of the City Council on Wednesday released their initial “Internet for All” report and action plan designed to address internet and technology needs that have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Durkan and Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez announced the initiative earlier this summer.

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The report analyzed internet, technology and device needs based on information gathered as part of the city’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption study. The action plan includes eight strategies designed to close the gaps identified.

The initiative serves to increase online access to key services and opportunities like education, job training, unemployment and other resources people are seeking amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue, and the pandemic has further magnified the digital inequities with many in our community lacking the technology and devices need for school or work,” Durkan said in a news release. “The Internet for All Initiative provides the City of Seattle a new roadmap and tangible action plan to close the digital divide and meaningfully increase to both Wi-Fi and devices at this critical time for our city.”

The strategies designed to address the gaps identified include recommendations to deploy more public Wi-Fi in “digital equity” areas by 2021, and create up to 20,000 internet connections and devices for underserved individuals by 2023.

According to the report, internet disparities are concentrated geographically in the following areas:

  • South Central Seattle (Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace and International District)
  • South Seattle (New Holly, Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill)
  • West Seattle (High Point and South Park)
  • Areas of downtown
  • Lake City

City officials said they will continue to pursue private sector and philanthropic partnerships to expand the access to reliable internet. They also said they will partner with organizations to “deliver culturally relevant digital inclusion programs.”

Click here to read the full report.