Since February 2023, VHB has been an on-call consultant to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) providing public engagement and planning services to communities enrolled in MBI’s Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program, an initiative designed to help towns assess local needs and prepare for future state and federal funding opportunities. The Town of Randolph was one of the first communities to take part in this program and VHB was engaged to serve as the project consultant. VHB’s role involves mapping broadband networks, interviewing local stakeholders, and engaging the community through public meetings, pop up events, and surveys—all of which will shape Randolph’s Digital Equity Plan.
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting transition to remote work and school—highlighted disparities in access to essential services like healthcare, education, government resources, shopping, and news. Many people cannot access these services due to roadblocks such as cost and network limitation. And, even if users have access to the internet, they may not have the skills to effectively use their devices. Once complete, Randolph’s Digital Equity Plan will include recommendations for improving access to the internet, devices, and digital literacy training and will position the Town to apply for future state and federal funding.