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Digital Equity Act
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Lots happening for Digital Inclusion Week 2023, which kicks off this Monday. One free online event that will be of particular interest for digital equity advocates across the nation is the next National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) Livestream.
The popular virtual gathering will be held this Tuesday, Oct. 3, from 12 noon to 1:15 pm ET and will focus on the DIW-inspired theme: “Building Connected Communities: Sustaining Momentum.”
Attendees can still register here.
Building on the success of our previous events, we are excited to present another engaging agenda packed with practical insights and information digital inclusion practitioners can use while working in the trenches to bridge America’s yawning digital divide.
The agenda includes:
The key for states to unlock their portion of the $42.5 billion in federal BEAD funds is the submission and approval of their Five Year Action Plans and Final Proposal. The infrastructure law requires states to first file an action plan, and then prepare more detailed Initial Proposals, allowing residents and stakeholders to submit public comments.
So far, 14 states have filed their Five Year Action Plans with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Treasury Department agency in charge of allocating the funds to each state and U.S. territory. According to the NTIA’s website, Maine, Louisiana, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont have all filed their draft Five Year Action Plans.
The states that are now in the process of completing their Initial Proposals include: Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
Today, we will look at two states (Maine and Louisiana) and follow up with the others as we are getting a clearer picture of how each state intends to put this historic infusion of federal funds to use.
Connect Humanity and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) have struck a new $7.9 million coalition partnership they say will help deliver affordable, next-generation broadband networks to more than 50 communities across 12 Appalachian states.
The project announcement states ARC has already awarded $6.3 million via its new Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) program, which is designed to help marginalized communities prepare for the more than $45 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act (DEA) funding arriving later this year.
Funding from both programs is currently bottlenecked behind the Federal Communications Commission’s longstanding and troubled efforts to accurately map broadband access. That’s been a particular problem in rural America, where fixed and wireless broadband providers have overstated real-world broadband access for the better part of a generation.
ARC data indicates that rural Appalachian communities, which stretch from New York State to Mississippi, are far more likely to have been left stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. That’s thanks in part to telecom monopolies that either refuse to revest in lower ROI rural areas, or have failed to live up to past taxpayer subsidization obligations.
Connectivity in the region lags well behind the national average, and in 26 Appalachian counties, fewer than 65 percent of households have a broadband subscription. 88 percent of Appalachian households currently have one or more computer devices—nearly four points below the national average. Only 23 Appalachian counties were at or above that same national average, and all of them were in metropolitan areas.
The window to request an unprecedented amount of federal funds to support state broadband grant programs is now open for business.
On Friday the 13th, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) officially announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) program.
The BEAD program, which is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that was passed in November 2021, represents the single largest federal investment in broadband expansion in U.S. history. The program, according to NTIA’s own definition, is designed to allocate the funds to all 50 states (U.S. territories and Tribal governments) to support “projects that help expand high-speed Internet access … (through) infrastructure deployment, mapping, and adoption. This includes planning and capacity-building in state offices. And it supports outreach and coordination with local communities.”
The Application Process Has Begun
We have documented and discussed the BEAD program on numerous occasions, which you can find here. But the big news that comes with the NOFO release are the application deadlines associated with it.
States have until July 18 to submit their Letter of Intent (LOI), a required first step for states to receive a minimum of $100 million in BEAD funds. (States will be allocated additional funding based on a formula that takes into account how many unserved households are in each state).