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Digital Equity

The City of Tacoma supports equitable access to computers and the Internet for all residents. We believe that the Internet is essential for education and employment opportunities, business development, healthcare, government services, and community involvement.


The City’s interest in a Digital Equity Program was established in 2015-2016 as a direct outcome of the City Council’s strategic planning efforts. At that time, the City was completing its ten-year strategic visioning exercise (Tacoma 2025) and it became clear that digital equity aligned with the City’s focus areas.


The City has identified three broad goals that it uses to define Digital Equity in Tacoma:

  • ​Public Internet Access:​ Residents of Tacoma have access to open Wi-Fi, kiosks, workstations, etc. in public places that are convenient and accessible. 
  • ​Home Internet Access:​ Residents of Tacoma have access to high-speed internet services in their place of residence at a price that is affordable for their level of income and have the hardware necessary to access the internet in the form of desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc.
  • ​Digital Literacy:​ Residents of Tacoma have access to programs and information on how to use computers and the internet to achieve their goals, whether in workforce readiness, communication, access to information and services, safety and security online, or otherwise.

Community Technology Use Survey

The City of Tacoma's Information Technology Department engaged Pacific Market Research, Inc. and Applied Inference, LLC to conduct a study of residents regarding their access and use of technology. This study was designed to help the City understand current digital divide issues in the community, and will be used to inform the City’s Digital Equity Program going forward. This survey is the City’s first study of this kind. 


Read the Preliminary 2016 Community Technology Survey Report

Focus Groups

Based on the recommendations from the Community Technology Use Survey, the City held a series of Digital Equity Focus Groups with communities experiencing the Digital Divide, including residents of the Hilltop, immigrant & refugee communities in Tacoma, and Tacomans experiencing homelessness. Top findings from these focus groups include:

  • All focus groups identified a strong need for fast, reliable, publicly accessible Wi-Fi in places like clinics, courthouses, community centers, schools, and shelters where they interact with any level of government or receive services.
  • The majority of focus group participants indicated that they primarily use their phones for web access but face significant barriers in accessing public computers in situations where a full desktop operating system is required.
  • All focus groups recognized the importance of digital literacy for employment, education, connectivity, and accessing services. They specifically identified low awareness of available trainings, the price of tuition or participation fees, and inaccessible class times as barriers to becoming more digitally literate. 
  • All focus groups identified a strong preference for accessing the internet or receiving digital literacy training at comfortable and familiar places like churches, non-profits, and schools. 

Read a full copy of the Focus Group Report.

Public Internet Access

The City's Digital Equity Initiative's goal of Public Internet Access is for residents to be able to connect to the Internet on a connection that is stable and strong in places that are convenient and accessible. This often means having open Wi-Fi networks in places where people can access it on their phones or tablets. However, some activities, like doing homework or applying for jobs, requires having access to a desktop or laptop as well.


Public Wi-Fi

The City of Tacoma has open, publicly accessible Wi-Fi at every City owned building and several other local governments provide access as well. The City has created a map of these facilities that offer open Wi-Fi


Many of our great local businesses and shops in Tacoma also offer Wi-Fi for patrons.  There are several databases and apps which can point you to locations offering public Wi-Fi, including some apps you may already have on your mobile device. 


The City also offers Wi-Fi at the Puyallup Avenue Stability Site for Tacomans experiencing homelessness and is exploring a Public Wi-Fi pilot that would expand access in underserved parts of town.


​Public Computers

Currently, Tacoma Public Libraries offers desktop computers at each of their locations which can be used to access the internet. The City is currently looking for ways to use surplus computers to expand public computer access in Tacoma. More information on this program will be shared here as it becomes available. 

Home Internet Access

The goal of Home Internet Access for the Digital Equity Initiative is to have reliable high-speed internet available in Tacoma at an affordable price and for residents of Tacoma to have access to devices that they can use to access the internet at prices they can afford.


The City is currently examining how best it can expand home access to the internet. More information will be available on this page as the program is developed. There are also a number of non-profit and for-profit options available for residents of Tacoma.


​Low-Cost Internet Services

There are currently two Internet Service Providers which offer low-cost internet to qualified individuals or families at a cost of about $11 per month.

  • Century Link's Internet Basics program is available for veterans, those receiving housing assistance, SNAP recipients, Supplemental Security recipients, and Medicaid recipients. Low-cost devices are available for program participants.
  • Comcast's Internet Essentials program is available for veterans, those receiving housing assistance, families who qualify for the National School Lunch program, and Medicaid recipients. Low-cost devices are available for program participants.

Low-Cost Devices

There are currently a number of businesses and organizations who sell devices at a low cost to qualified Tacomans.

  • Both Comcast and CenturyLink sell low-cost devices to participants in their low-cost internet programs. 
  • Interconnection is a non-profit based in Seattle that refurbishes and sells to qualified individuals and non-profits at a low cost. 
  • PCs For People is a Minnesota-based non-profit that refurbishes and sells to qualified individuals and non-profits. 


Digital Literacy

The goal of the Digital Literacy component of the Digital Equity Initiative is for residents of Tacoma to be able to use computers and the internet to achieve their goals. This can include everything from basic computing skills, to staying safe online, to advanced computer programming.


There are a wealth of programs in Tacoma that provide different types of training and tutoring for those wanting to learn more. 


Local Programs

  • Tacoma Public Library offers tutoring and regularly scheduled class that are free of charge. They also offer subscriptions on online resources which can provide even more training.
  • Goodwill offers trainings for all levels of users with a focus on workforce development.
  • Tacoma Community House offers computer training as a part of its Adult Basic Education program at a cost of $25 per quarter.  
  • Tacoma Community College offers computer training as a part of its Adult Basic Education program at a cost of $25 per quarter. 

 Online Programs

In addition to learning in person, there are many great ways to learn the skills you want online. Most of these eLearning programs include a variety of classes from basic to advanced.

Staying Safe Online

Though our Digital Equity Initiative focuses on getting residents of Tacoma online, we also want to make sure that people are safe when they get online. If you want to learn more, your local library is a great resource to get started. If you feel comfortable learning online, here are some other great resources:

  • Digital Unite includes guides on keeping your computer virus free, protecting yourself from identity theft, and keeping kids safe online, among others.
  • Comcast Internet Essentials includes guides for avoiding scams, dealing with cyberbullying, and helping seniors stay safe online, among others.
  • Microsoft includes guides for protecting your privacy online, protecting teens and tweens online, and online reputation management, among others.