And the Anchor Award Goes To…
October 24, 2019


By Emily Olson, Chief Operating Officer, SHLB Coalition

Community anchor institutions (CAIs) are the foundation supporting every great town, city, and locality. The SHLB Coalition’s mission has always been for every one of these institutions to have affordable, high-quality broadband that is open and accessible to the surrounding public. It’s a big goal – one that we’ve made some amazing strides toward by working on broadband policy 

It can be challenging to see how our work within the Capital Beltway impacts the anchor institutions around the country. For this reason, at AnchorNets 2019: The 9th Annual SHLB Conference we announced the first ever Anchor Awards. Each year we will recognize three awardees – a school, a library, and a health entity – for their exemplary work in line with SHLB’s mission of ensuring broadband access for all.  

At AnchorNets, I was honored to present the Anchor Awards to our very first recipients: Santa Fe Indian School, the North Carolina Telehealth Network Association, and the Springfield-Greene County Library District. These incredible organizations have demonstrated exceptional commitment to broadband, leading to real-word, tangible results for their communities. The following is an excerpt from my speech at the award ceremony that describes the amazing work these anchors have been doing. 

Over the last five years, Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) crossed the digital divide and delivered broadband to its campus. When the market provided limited and expensive internet choices, the school worked with local higher education partners, the city, and county to bring fiber optics to Santa Fe. Additionally, SFIS helped six Tribes apply for E-rate, resulting in two 60-mile fiber optic networks – connecting six Tribal libraries and two state schools. The school continues connecting other Tribes, following its vision of a regional Tribal education network that will increase student outcomes and Tribal capacity. 

The North Carolina Telehealth Network Association (NCTNA) offers high-quality, discounted broadband services to subscribers like DayMark Recovery Services and Vidant Health Systems. Their subscribers serve some of the poorest counties in rural North Carolina, where a third of residents live below the poverty level. Thanks to affordable broadband, NCTNA’s  subscribers offer behavioral health services, monitoring for chronic conditions, and other life-saving health services that their communities would otherwise be unable to access. 

For many low-income residents, libraries are the one place they can go to access the internet free of charge. Springfield-Greene County Library District is well aware of this, having hosted 750,000 daily unique Wi-Fi sessions in 2018. This year, they went above and beyond by introducing the Library Express West, a 24/7 library kiosk located in an underserved area of Springfield, Missouri. Now, library patrons can access free Wi-Fi at any time on any day – they are no longer constrained by the library’s business hours. The kiosk currently averages over 3,500 sessions per month. 

On behalf of the SHLB Coalition, I wholeheartedly congratulate this year’s awardees. Santa Fe, North Carolina, and Springfield are fortunate to have these dedicated anchor institutions strengthening and improving their communities.

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