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What’s New in Digital Equity: U.S. House Passes Four Telecom Bills

Plus, Oklahoma is now hiring a state broadband director; Maryland has announced $127.6 million in new broadband grants; Cleveland, Ohio, allocated $25 million of federal funding to broadband support; and more.

U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed new telecommunications legislation, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has announced.

The House passed four bills related to telecommunications in total. These bills are separately interested in things such as spectrum frequencies, reporting participation numbers for connectivity programs, amending the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Organization Act, and helping survivors of domestic abuse separate their phone lines easier.

Leveraging the power of government to help more Americans get affordable access to high-speed Internet has increasingly become a priority in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three of the four telecommunications bills that were recently passed by the U.S. House are in keeping with this goal.

Full information about all four of the bills can be found on the committee’s website. (Zack Quaintance)


Oklahoma is looking to hire a new director of the State Broadband Office. The director will be responsible for managing the recently established office and will act as the liaison between the state and broadband policy stakeholders. The job posting lists the deadline for applications as Aug. 7.

The requirements of the position include a bachelor’s degree in a related field and five to 10 years of senior-level experience. Some of the duties of the job include leading the agency’s legislative efforts concerning broadband, providing policy advice and overseeing the creation and revision of the statewide broadband plan. (Julia Edinger)


In other state broadband news, about 15,000 households in Maryland are expected to be connected through grant funding announced last week. Over $127 million in grants have been awarded by the Office of Statewide Broadband through the Connect Maryland initiative. The funding will go to local governments, Internet service providers and educational and community organizations.

The investments were made available as part of four grant programs: the Connect Maryland Network Infrastructure Grant Program, the Neighborhood Connect Broadband Grant Program, the Connected Communities Grant Program and the Maryland Emergency Education Relief Grant.

The Connect Maryland initiative was launched last summer and has led to a total investment of $400 million for expansion of broadband access. More information about the initiative can be found on the Department of Housing and Community Development website. (Julia Edinger)


Cleveland is allocating $25 million of American Rescue Plan money to digital equity, the mayor’s office has announced.

The city unveiled its allocations for a total of $462 million of federal support this week, with other areas receiving money as well, including inclusive housing, modernizing City Hall and public safety. The money for digital equity is sorely needed, with the mayor’s office noting in its transformation plans that 30 percent of the city’s residents don’t have reliable Internet access.

“We must think creatively and strategically about how we allocate these funds,” said Mayor Justin Bibb in a statement. “My administration is focusing on initiatives that will set a foundation for long-term, tangible impact for the residents of Cleveland. These allocations allow us to maximize the use of federal funds in the areas that our community identified as their priorities.” (Zack Quaintance)


The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has released its first-ever impact report, detailing the effects of the work that the group has done since it was founded back in 2015.

The NDIA Impact Report 2015-2022 can be found on the group’s website, and it’s filled with information, including how many global affiliates are in the alliance, a timeline of the group’s evolution, the definitions in the space the group helped create, links to toolkits, analytics related to National Digital Inclusion Week and more.

“For decades, digital inclusion practitioners worked under the shadow of scarcity,” NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer wrote in a letter with the report. “Not enough funding. Not enough partners. Not enough understanding of the value and urgency of digital equity. The pandemic changed some of our reality, but if we hadn’t been climbing uphill for so many years, building our field, building our community, and building NDIA, we wouldn’t now be discussing how to make the most of our new reality.” (Zack Quaintance)


Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the first cohort of 22 cities that will be participating in the City Data Alliance. The program was created to help cities harness data to improve residents’ government experience. The participating mayors will be part of a six-month acceleration program and will receive education, coaching, and a 12-month investment in data work.

Funded by a $60 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the cities participating will get support in four areas of critical data capacities: performance management, evaluation, results-driven contracting and data as a service.

The cities participating come from seven countries. Ultimately, 100 cities across North, Central and South America will participate in the program. Applications for the first cohort had to be submitted by March 31; the application for the next cohort will open in late 2022. (Julia 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.