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What's New in Civic Tech: FCC Ups Emergency Connectivity Funds

Plus, a new bill proposal in the U.S. House would extend the lifespan of the Chief Data Officers Council; the Urban Libraries Council recognizes the top innovators of 2021 in digital equity; and more.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that it was committing an additional $240,888,016 of support to the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.

The funding — which marks the eighth such wave of new monies — will support 693 schools, 55 libraries and eight consortia, helping over 600,000 students. The institutions will receive nearly 683,000 connected devices and 182,000 broadband connections. This funding can be used to support off-campus learning, which is increasingly important in bridging the homework gap with the rise of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program first launched in June 2021 and has since committed over $4.4 billion to these efforts across the country. The first wave was announced in September 2021, and the FCC has been steadily committing additional funding. To date, the funding that the FCC has committed for the program will support nearly 9.6 million connected devices and nearly 4.9 million broadband connections.

While broadband connectivity is at the center of this funding effort, it's all part of an ongoing surge in digital inclusion and digital equity support at all levels of government. That support also transcends sectors, with nonprofits, community groups and private-sector businesses increasingly coming together to help get U.S. communities connected, be it through building out broadband infrastructure, getting devices to people who need that, or lending support to digital skills training efforts. (Julia Edinger)

NEW PROPOSAL WOULD EXTEND FEDERAL CDO COUNCIL TO 2030


The U.S. House Oversight Committee has presented a bipartisan proposal that would extend the Federal Chief Data Officers Council through 2030.

The council is currently slated to end in 2025. The new proposal is part of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, which is primarily concerned with strengthening federal government cybersecurity. The council, which first established its charter in 2020, works to establish governmentwide best practices for data, including its management, usage, protection and sharing.

The idea is that all chief data officers within various federal agencies can learn from each other, collaborating in ways that will make their work stronger across the board, given the substantial overlap in their responsibilities. (Zack Quaintance)

URBAN LIBRARIES COUNCIL RECOGNIZES 2021 TOP INNOVATORS IN DIGITAL EQUITY


The Urban Libraries Council recognized 20 libraries in the 2021 Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions, via an announcement last week. One category of recognition was Digital Equity and Citizenship, for which the Nashville Public Library was named a top innovator and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library received an honorable mention.

The Nashville Public Library was recognized for its Telehealth for Older Adults program. The use of telehealth has soared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for older adults, telehealth services are not always accessible.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library was recognized for a program called MeckTech Connect, which offers residents free home Internet service in the West Boulevard Corridor through a partnership between the library and local provider Open Broadband. The service is currently available to over 800 homes. (Julia Edinger)

STATE OF MONTANA CONTRACTS TECH VENDOR TO CONSTRUCT STATE BROADBAND MAP


The state of Montana has contracted with LightBox to construct the ConnectMT statewide broadband map. When it is completed, the map will offer detailed analysis of broadband service availability throughout the state to be used for the allocation of $266 million to unserved and underserved communities. Providers that conduct business in the state have submitted detailed mapping data to LightBox to move the process forward.

“This platform will serve as a key component to help ConnectMT reach its goal of deploying broadband throughout Montana to bridge the digital divide,” said Misty Ann Giles, Department of Administration director, in the announcement.

The program was established last year through the passage of Senate Bill 297 in conjunction with House Bill 632. The public is encouraged to monitor the website for announcements about the program as it develops further. (Julia Edinger)
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.
Associate editor for <i>Government Technology</i> magazine