Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
national digital inclusion alliance
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In 2021, California passed Senate Bill 156, an ambitious plan allocating $6 billion to shore up affordable broadband access throughout the state.
Among the most notable of the bill’s proposals was a plan to spend $3.25 billion on an open-access statewide broadband middle-mile network backers say could transform competition in the state.
An additional $2 billion has also been earmarked for last mile deployment. Both components will be heavily funded by Coronavirus relief funds and federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) subsidies as well as California State Government grants – with all projects to be finished by December 2026 as per federal funding rules.
But while California’s proposal has incredible potential, activists and digital equity advocates remain concerned that the historic opportunity could be squandered due to poor broadband mapping, a notable lack of transparency, and the kind of political dysfunction that has long plagued the Golden State.
Massive Scale, Big Money, Endless Moving Parts
Still, California’s prioritization of open access fiber networks could prove transformative.
Data routinely indicates that open access fiber networks lower market entry costs, boost overall competition, and result in better, cheaper, faster Internet access. Unsurprisingly, such networks are often opposed by entrenched regional monopolies that have grown fat and comfortable on the back of muted competition.
With the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on track to run out of funds by spring/early summer 2024, finally there is a request from the White House to extend funding for the program that over 21 million housholds now rely on to help pay for high-speed Internet service.
Last week, the Biden administration formally asked Congress for another $6 billion to extend the program through November 2024, joining a chorus of public interest groups (including AARP) calling on Congress to replenish the rapidly depleting fund.
(According to our calculations, an additional $6 billion would not fund the program through December 2024 as the White House said. It would fund the program through the end of November 2024. It would take $6.9B to get through the end of December).
First established with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021 as part of the Biden administration’s “Internet for All” initiative, the ACP – currently administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – provides income-eligible households with a $30 monthly subsidy ($75 per month for those living on Tribal lands) to pay for their Internet service bill. The program also provides a one-time $100 benefit to go towards the purchase of an Internet-connected device such as a laptop or tablet.
The White House, in coordination with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Commerce Department, has kicked off a major push to get more of the estimated 52 million eligible households across the nation to take advantage of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Established with the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, the ACP provides a $30 monthly subsidy for qualified low-income households to pay for home Internet service, as well as a one-time $100 subsidy to help pay for an Internet-connected device. (Eligible households on Tribal land get a $75/month subsidy).
The FCC recently announced $66 million in grant awards to help states boost ACP enrollment, which has come to be seen as being notoriously complicated among those working in the field.
And on Monday, the White House hosted a webinar with three national nonprofit organizations to announce the launch of an “Online for All” campaign aimed at helping more families enroll with what they called “user-friendly tools” and digital navigator support for community organizations and state governmental entities.
Call to Boost Anemic ACP enrollment
The nationwide push to get more ACP-eligible households enrolled in the program comes because, even a year after the ACP was first established, only “16 million (of 52 million) households are participating. We need to double down on that. We need your help more than ever,” one White House official told digital equity advocates and Internet service providers invited to Monday’s webinar.
Net Inclusion 2023 begins tomorrow in sunny San Antonio, Texas, running Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon. With nearly a 1,000 registrants, and the whole Community Broadband Networks crew getting together, it promises to be a good event. There are panels and breakout sessions planned for the all the diverse challenges and opportunities that make up the arena of digital equity and inclusion today, from skills training, to device access, to cost, to use in higher education, medicine, and aging in place.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), which hosts the event, will be livestreaming select panels and keynotes on Wednesday and Thursday this year, and we're excited to share that that you can also watch via our YouTube and Facebook Live pages.
Check out the full panel and livestream schedule here, and watch Day 1 and Day 2 of Net Inclusion 2023 below.
Day 1 (Wednesday, March 1)
Day 2 (Thursday, March 2)
A Foundation for the Future of Digital Equity Work - Episode 520 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Pamela Rosales (Training and Community Engagement Manager, National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Davida Delmar (Digital Inclusion Manager, Amerind). Pamela and Davida talk about their digital inclusion work and how it differs across Tribal communities as compared to rural and urban areas. They also catch Christopher up on what's going on in cities and nationwide in the digital equity space, from how to develop outreach channels during an ongoing pandemic, 2022's Digital Inclusion Week, NDIA's ongoing Digital Navigator Program that is beginning to ramp up, what we can expect to see down the road in terms of needs and resources, and more.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Billions in federal funding planned for investment over the next half decade means that, more than ever, we need dedicated, smart, capable people to ensure that public funds go to pragmatic, equitable, locally controlled infrastructure and programs. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has been a clear and leading voice on policy issues since its formation, and their team is growing. It's an opportunity to join a talented team doing crucial work.
Currently, the organization is hiring for three positions.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is seeking an enthusiastic and qualified Policy Manager (or Associate) to help lead NDIA’s expanding portfolio of state support projects and federal policy initiatives. A strong candidate will possess the right combination of digital inclusion expertise, creativity, a collaborative spirit, and self-motivation; and will have a passion for advancing digital equity policy at the federal, state and local level and supporting state governments as they implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is seeking an enthusiastic and qualified Program Manager to help lead NDIA’s work supporting local organizations and affiliates, including digital inclusion coalitions, local and regional governments, and community-based organizations. A strong candidate will possess the right combination of practical expertise, creativity, a collaborative spirit, and self-motivation; and will have a passion for the unique role that local organizations and collaborations play in advancing digital inclusion efforts, with a particular focus on promoting racial and social equity.
Research and Data Manager
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is seeking an enthusiastic and qualified Research & Data Manager to help lead NDIA’s expanding portfolio of research and data work. A strong candidate will possess the right combination of technical expertise, creativity, a collaborative spirit, and self-motivation; and will have a passion for using data to understand and support digital inclusion efforts, with a particular focus on promoting racial and social equity.
In March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance held a livestream event on the range of challenges and tools available to communities to accomplish infrastructure, equity, and inclusion goals. We called it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. There, we discussed the new policies and funding options available that can be applied at the state and local levels to help communities improve their Internet services.
This time we will be focusing on organizing around broadband, community impact of the federal funding, and new initiatives in progress thanks to the grants communities are taking advantage of.
Join us on Wednesday June 29th from 1:00pm-2:15pm ET as we discuss what's happening on the ground in these communities and what some of them are planning to do with the new federal broadband dollars. We are calling it Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2: Claiming Broadband For Your Community. Register here.
This event will feature:
- Your favorite co-host: Christopher Mitchell of ILSR and Pamela Rosales of NDIA
- Videos from communities discussing what they are planning and doing with the funding
- Discussing the “how” in organizing communities
- Guest speakers discussing organizing strategies, and success stories.
- The return of the crowd favorite Broadband Trivia!
Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Register for Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2 here to get the livestream links; on the day of the event, it will also be available on Twitter, via @netinlusion, @communitynets and @muninetworks.
During the livestream, you can also join the trivia game (link to follow).
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance's (NDIA) expanded National Digital Navigator Corps is running its first round of awards, and will support new projects at 18 sites around the country (including six in Tribal communities) beginning in the second half of this year.
The deadline to apply via Letter of Intent is this Friday at 11:59pm, via this form. Applicants are asked to put together a 200-400 word summary of their project, including local needs, goals, potential impact, and any partners. More detailed instructions can be found here.
From, NDIA, a description of the program:
Digital navigators are trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices. Digital navigators help demystify technology by providing one-on-one, ongoing assistance to connect residents to affordable internet, devices, technical skills, and application support.
NDIA will select 18 partner organizations in rural areas or that serve Tribal and Indigenous communities, with a minimum of six organizations that serve Tribal and Indigenous communities, to host a digital navigator program as part of the National Digital Navigator Corps. Selected grantees will be trusted community-based organizations or local agencies, which will include nonprofits, social service agencies, libraries, and Tribal governments.
Each applicant can apply for up to $389,000, representing a two-and-a-half-year commitment. The breakdown of those funds goes to everything from salary and benefits, to additional program management support, a device, data management, and indirect costs.
One bonus is that there is money for each new Digital Navigator set aside to attend the Net Inclusion conference during the second and third years of their tenure.
Applicants who submit Letters of Intent that pass the first round will be invited to submit full proposals by May 31, with winners notified at the end of July, and work beginning shortly thereafter.
What is digital equity? And why is access to ubiquitous, reliable and affordable high-speed Internet service so vital? The technological issues involved can sometimes seem confusing, especially for those who came of age before the Internet fundamentally transformed how we interact.
That’s why the Institute for Local Self Reliance, with support from AARP, has created the Exploring Digital Equity Fact Sheet Series. The series contains six user-friendly, easy-to-understand fact sheets to help demystify the challenges associated with creating digital equity.
We are releasing the entire series today, while AARP will feature the fact sheets as part of its Livable Communities initiative, an effort to support neighborhoods, towns, cities and rural areas in creating safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life.
The fact sheets series ultimately highlight how expanding Internet access to everyone who wants it isn’t an infrastructure problem alone. Achieving digital equity for everyone in a community is a multi-faceted endeavor, and requires engaging and activating an array of stakeholders. The Exploring Digital Equity Fact Sheet Series unpacks the issues, challenges, and opportunities today.
On Wednesday, March 16th, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance teamed up with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for a two-hour, fast-paced webinar on the ways communities can accomplish digital equity goals called Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. It was just as fun to do as we hoped, and packed with speakers providing practical, easy-to-understand advice and a wonderful audience full of questions and additional information.
We heard from an array of people and about a host of projects, from Broadband Action Teams in Washington state, to coalitions in Maine, an update on the Digital Navigator model, mapping, talking to local governments, and a breakdown of the funding available to communities.
If you did not have a chance to leave feedback for us, please do it here - especially if you have ideas for segments in future events.
We also want to make sure you have links to all of the resources shared by the event speakers: