Millions keep pouring in for broadband

New broadband funding continued to pour in this week, with state and federal government agencies making important announcements. At the highest level of government, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced $37 million in additional funds for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will go to support libraries and schools.

This is the 13th release of funds from this fund, and it will support 170 schools, 30 libraries and four consortia in a list of states including Alaska, Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico , Pennsylvania and Texas. As we noted in previous columns, a new window for requests for even more Emergency Connectivity Fund money through the FCC is set to open on April 28 and remain open through May 13. All the money is intended to ensure that every school-aged student in the country has access to the internet, as well as a device to use it.

The FCC noted that this window could be the last to request money from the fund, which was authorized by Congress as part of the American Rescue Plan Act that lawmakers passed in 2021. To date, the agency has distributed $4.8 billion, connecting an estimated 12.5 million students across the country.

Funds went directly to the app from schools, libraries and adjoining groups, paying for things like Wi-Fi hotspots, routers and other devices with internet connections.

In other FCC news this week, the commission released its eighth release of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund recipients, whose list totaled 1,345 winning bids. Interested parties can view the complete list through the FCC publication.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a $20.4 billion fundraising effort to help improve the internet in rural America, passed in 2019 before the pandemic. Last month, the commission announced that it would release $313 million for candidates. This new list identifies the successful offers, essentially including the exact amount for each as well as the destination of this money.

Finally, in a final update from the FCC, the commission released its new fairness action plan this month, which it was required to do under President Biden’s executive order. This order directs the FCC to advance racial equity and support for traditionally underserved communities through its work.

There is a lot going on in this report, but perhaps it can be broken down into a few main points. First, the FCC notes that under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, it has also been tasked with facilitating equal access to broadband. As such, it has created a working group to prevent digital discrimination.

Next, the group runs the Affordable Connectivity Program, a $14.2 billion investment to help eligible households get discounted internet access as well as the devices they need to use it. Finally, the FCC continues to work on updating its oft-criticized broadband mapping efforts to make it easier for the public to find more detailed and accurate broadband information. (Zack Quiintance)


Investments in broadband expansion also continued this week at the state level, as the third round of recipients of the Next Level Connections broadband grant program were announced in Indiana, for a total of $189 million. The funding will be matched with an additional $239 million in matching funds from 35 telecommunications providers and utility co-ops.

“With this third round, we are taking giant steps to level the playing field for our residents, wherever they choose to live, work or go to school,” the governor said. of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, in a statement.

The program, administered by Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, has awarded $268 million in total for broadband infrastructure in the state. These investments build on the Governor’s extensive Next Level Connections infrastructure program. (Julia Edinger)


In other state news, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s administration is working to close the digital divide for its residents with the release of key findings and recommendations from a broadband report statement developed with the Broadband Development Group.

A six-month study was conducted to develop a statewide plan for the digital divide, which currently leaves 210,000 households in the state underserved. The study involved organizing more than 300 community meetings and obtaining more than 18,000 resident surveys. The state plans to leverage federal and state funding to help bring services to underserved households.

Recommendations include the implementation by the State of competitive tenders for subsidies, the requirement of affordability of tariffs and the sustainability of technology with optical fiber. Next month, the Arkansas Department of Commerce will work with stakeholders to discuss the report, which can be viewed on the department’s website. (Julia Edinger)


As states prepare for the ongoing historic federal investment in digital equity through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a National Governors Association (NGA) brief titled “Using Data to Advance Digital Skills: A State Handbook” offers information and resources to help bridge the digital skills gap. The release of the playbook comes as increased digital inclusion training has been trending across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brief was developed as a collaborative effort between the NGA Workforce Innovation Network, the National Skills Coalition, World Education and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. It is divided into five parts, exploring what data states should collect, how to collect it, how to use it, connecting the data to state workforce goals and emerging practices in this space. It offers specific examples, resources and recommendations that states can implement.

The playbook cites research from the National Skills Coalition indicating that nearly one in three American workers aged 16 to 64 have few or no digital skills and highlights the need to close this gap in a growing job market. digital. (Julia Edinger)


Localities are also working to increase digital equity. For example, King County, Washington, is aiming to boost digital literacy with digital equity grants — federally funded by state coronavirus and local fiscal stimulus funds — to help residents access services. digital.

Twenty-nine grant recipients were announced, and funding was awarded based on impact and sustainability – with a focus on how applicants would serve marginalized demographic groups, including Black and aboriginals, people with disabilities and homeless people.

Grant recipients will work to improve digital equity in a variety of ways, including workshops, technical support, and device loan programs. The announcement is in response to findings from the county’s 2020 Broadband Access Study, which found 20% of households were underserved. (Julia Edinger)


The Centri Tech Foundation – a nonprofit group that supports digital equity work – has awarded $195,000 to five organizations located in different US cities. These awards are part of the launch of the group’s Digital Integrators pilot program, which aims to support digital skills training that moves towards an inclusive digital economy.

The money is also intended to support “programmatic innovations that foster a more equitable digital economy,” the Centri Tech Foundation noted in a statement. The groups receiving this funding are the Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Boston; the Equitable Internet Initiative in Detroit; LIFT-NY in New York; ExCITe Center in Philadelphia; and Byte Back in Washington, D.C.

As part of the award, recipients will also join a six-month cohort and peer exchange that will be facilitated by the Foundation.

You can find more information about each winner and their work in the announcement of the awards. (Zack Quiintance)


The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has released a new set of resources aimed at answering questions about the Affordable Connectivity Program (AFP), the federal government’s ongoing effort to help those in need afford to have Internet and devices at home.

NDIA’s new ACP homepage includes an informational video, infographics, an elaborate set of frequently asked questions, and links to places where interested parties can apply for the benefits. There is information on the page specifically for tribal areas, individuals, libraries, school districts, etc. (Zack Quiintance)


The Pew Charitable Trusts has released new guidelines for state government broadband plans. With a new brief titled “Strategies for Developing Effective State Broadband Plans,” Pew is building on its ongoing research in the area of ​​state broadband planning to identify the best approaches. more efficient and other valuable information.

The brief includes a list of key terms in the space, a discussion of federal requirements for financial support, elements of the most successful plans, and more. You can find the new folder via the Pew website. (Zack Quiintance)

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