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What’s New in Digital Equity: California Drafts Map for Statewide Broadband

Plus, Pew Charitable Trusts is warning that states are at risk of missing out on federal broadband funding, the NDIA has announced two new resources related to digital inclusion work, and more.

Anaheim map
California has released a draft map and design recommendations for a statewide open access broadband network. The release comes specifically from the California Department of Technology, and the work within aims to give Internet service providers the new infrastructure they need to bring broadband to the areas of the state that currently don’t have it.

Both the map and the design recommendations were provided by GoldenStateNet, which is a third-party administrator helping California to develop and ultimately complete the work toward this statewide network. All told, the map proposes about 8,700 miles of broadband infrastructure, all of it in the service of connecting residents who are currently unable to get high-speed Internet. It spans all of California, including rural, urban, and tribal communities there.

In the weeks to come, GoldenStateNet and the California Department of Technology will team with the California Public Utilities Commission and Caltrans to refine the routes recommended by the map. After that, the next step will be starting the preconstruction process. Finally, GoldenStateNet will then create a finalized map for this network.

This all comes as the result of a law passed by California lawmakers and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July. That legislation called for the creation of this network, providing $3.25 billion to fund it.

This is part of an ongoing acceleration in the work to get all Californians connected to high-speed Internet. As mentioned in this space earlier this month, the Golden State Connect Authority (GSCA) — which is a 38-county collective working to get fiber for its members — announced a partnership with Utah’s UTOPIA Fiber, the largest open access municipal fiber network in the United States. (Zack Quaintance)


EXPERT: STATES RUN RISK OF LEAVING FEDERAL BROADBAND FUNDING ON TABLE


Kathryn de Wit, who is the director of Pew Charitable Trusts’ broadband initiative, says that states are at risk of leaving money on the table as a historic federal funding effort for high-speed Internet approaches. Wit wrote out the warning in a piece this week, noting at the start how traditionally states have waited on the federal government for funding, but now, the federal government is waiting on states to make their case for the funds.

One of the most telling segments of the piece was where Wit notes that even though the first major federal broadband investment was passed last year through the American Rescue Plan Act, “just 24 states have confirmed plans to use billions in federal dollars provided through the act’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) for broadband expansion.”

Although, she also notes that this may in part be because states are waiting for a forthcoming larger federal investment in broadband through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is set to funnel $65 billion to broadband and digital equity work, all of which states will be responsible for ultimately administrating. The piece, however, encourages states to apply for all the broadband funding they can as soon as possible, rather than waiting on future investments.

There are a few reasons for this advice, all of which can be found in de Wit’s piece on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ website. (Zack Quaintance)

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO, ROLLS OUT $20M BROADBAND PLAN


As at the state level, some county governments are actually working hard to get as much broadband funding as they can now. Indeed, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, recently unveiled a plan that would see the Cleveland area county using $20 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to help get more of its residents connected.

As reported on cleveland.com, county officials want to use the money for a plan that could help more than 25,000 homes in the county’s low-income suburban areas. The plan calls for partnering on this work with an area nonprofit group called PCs for People. It would mean free Internet service for any residents who qualify, with $15-per-month Internet for those who do not.

The plan also aims to provide 20,000 of the involved households with wireless Internet and the other 5,000 with hard-wired connections. (Zack Quaintance)

NDIA ANNOUNCES NEW RESOURCES FOR DIGITAL INCLUSION


As states look to maximize the impact of that influx of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has released a new publication this week to help support them in their planning efforts. The resource is titled, Digital Inclusion Guide for States: How to Prepare for Success in Your State Digital Equity Planning.

The publication explores how states can create a plan and how that plan can be executed to ensure states can capitalize on the funding from grant programs including the Capital Project Funds, State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. It provides information on eligibility requirements states must adhere to, diverse communities to engage with in the planning process and other recommendations.

In addition, the NDIA also announced in a tweet this week that it has created a digital inclusion job board. This is a space where states and localities seeking to staff up in preparation for these funding opportunities can submit job openings and, alternately, where those looking for a job in this space can go to find work. (Julia Edinger)

CHECK OUT THESE DIGITAL EQUITY FACT SHEETS


On top of those new resources from the NDIA, this week also saw the posting of a new roundup of digital equity fact sheets by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. These fact sheets tackle the definition of what is broadband, the range of broadband access challenges, the range of broadband affordability challenges, key digital skills needed for broadband, and more.

The new series of digital equity fact sheets was created by the institute with funding by the AARP.

“Expanding Internet access to everyone who wants it isn’t an infrastructure problem alone,” the institute noted. “Achieving equity for everyone in a community is a many-sided endeavor, and requires engaging and activating an array of stakeholders.” (Zack Quaintance)

DIGITAL EQUITY GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR NONPROFITS IN BLOOMINGTON, IND.


Bloomington, Ind., has announced its Digital Equity Grants program, inviting city nonprofits to apply. The program will award $50,000 to nonprofits through the Information and Technology Services Department’s annual general fund budget.

The plan aims to address the availability gap, the adoption gap, the utilization gap and institutionalization. The program is now in its third year; last year, nine recipients were awarded funding for digital equity projects.

Proposals, which will be accepted between May 2 and June 10, should work to increase access to broadband, Internet-enabled devices and digital skills in line with the city’s Digital Equity Strategic Plan. More information about the program can be found on the city’s website. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
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.