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What's New in Digital Equity: Local Orgs Partner With FCC

Plus, why this weekly column has a new name, the NTIA awards $277 million in grants to enhance broadband in 12 states, and a new Illinois broadband program announces its inaugural cohort.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
You may have noticed this week’s column has a new name, What’s New in Digital Equity. It’s a change that’s been coming for some time. For the past five years, this feature has covered civic tech news. In that same time, civic tech in the U.S. has increasingly focused on equity, with major actors in the space putting the work at the forefront while government agencies strive to connect everyone they serve. To that end, we’ve renamed our weekly feature to reflect the evolving nature of our coverage. This column will still focus on civic tech, but with a leading emphasis on digital inclusion and digital equity.

Read our March magazine feature about digital equity and cities here!


The Federal Communications Commission is teaming with local organizations across the country to promote its Affordable Connectivity Program.

These partnerships have already started, consisting so far of a virtual tour. Events have already taken place in coordination with groups in Washington, D.C.; Hawaii; Illinois; Texas; Connecticut; and more. The groups are varied, ranging from advocates for Asian American Pacific immigrants to AARP to regional library councils. The idea behind the events is to raise awareness of and to get more people to sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides monthly discounts aimed at helping eligible households sign up for Internet service at home.

The locally focused tour of virtual events is slated to continue through the end of March. In addition to building awareness, the events are also training grass-roots navigators to continue helping different populations determine if they are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The program offers the following benefits: "Eligible low-income households can receive a discount of up to $30 per month toward Internet service and up to $75 per month for eligible households on tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price."

Organizations interested in partnering with the FCC on future events are asked to reach out via email: (Zack Quaintance)


Six committees have been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program, according to an announcement from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Broadband. The 14-week training program will help leaders from the participating communities develop broadband plans that are specific to their local needs. The idea is to help these leaders be better positioned for new state and federal funds.

Participating communities — the city of Springfield, Jackson County, Knox County, Mercer County, Whiteside County and the village of Elsah — will gather data from residents and stakeholders for their plans using community surveys.

The program, led by a collaboration between the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Illinois-based Benton Institute for Broadband and Society and the University of Illinois Extension, with funding from Heartland Forward, intends to help cities and counties of any size apply for funding. More information can be found on the DCEO website. (Julia Edinger)


The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced that 13 grants have been awarded as part of the Broadband Infrastructure Program, totaling more than $277 million. The grants were awarded to 12 states and the territory of Guam.

“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we now have the opportunity to connect every unserved household in the country, ensuring that all Americans are able to participate in our 21st-century economy,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

NTIA reviewed applications with a three-stage process. NTIA is planning to introduce a series of new grant programs, funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to expand broadband infrastructure, affordability and digital inclusion. Additional funding for broadband may be available through American Rescue Plan Act funds. (Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.