Digital equity and inclusion — affordable access to broadband internet, technology and devices, and skills and literacy — are vital components of economic development for rural communities.

Download the presentation slides, and watch the event recording.

Panelists and participants discussed best practices, policies, and funding opportunities for digital equity investments as part of a comprehensive economic development strategy. Presentations included recent data on access in rural Pennsylvania and how to increase capacity for applying for grants. Additionally, we dove into the roles of philanthropy, small internet service providers, and others in community efforts toward digital inclusion. Lastly, the assembly touched on timelines for funding and how to prepare for this historic opportunity at the local, regional, and state levels.

The agenda included presentations from:

  • Roxanna (Roxy) Barboza, Industry and Cybersecurity Policy Analyst, NTCA
  • Jeremy Hegle, Lead Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
  • Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Penn State University and Director, X-Lab
  • Ashley Putnam, Director, Economic Growth & Mobility Project, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Small group breakout discussion

Attendees discussed the panel presentations, including opportunities and challenges for local implementation, in small breakout groups

Full assembly report back

Each breakout group will report back on their conversation to the full assembly with group discussion to follow.

This virtual meeting is a continuation of the Rural Community Action Assemblies begun in 2020. The series focuses on actionable research and programmatic models to promote strong and equitable community, economic, and workforce development in rural Pennsylvania. This series is cohosted by the Philadelphia Fed's Community Development and Regional Outreach Department, Penn State's Center for Economic and Community Development, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

For questions about this series, please contact Nathaniel Borek at