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What's New in Digital Equity: A New Planning Toolkit for States

Plus, a new ITIF report compares the U.S. broadband landscape with the rest of the world; a congressional broadband oversight effort is announced; Providence, R.I., has a new broadband coordinator; and more.

This week in “What’s New in Digital Equity” — our weekly look at government digital equity and broadband news — we have a number of interesting items, which you can jump to with the links below:


This week, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) released the State Digital Equity Plan Toolkit, which offers best practices, guidance, templates and other resources to help states maximize the impact of funding through the Digital Equity Act.

This historic funding boost came from the federal government’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Yet, many states are still grappling with how best to prepare for it and do not have mature broadband management infrastructure in place — like a broadband office or broadband advisory board — to oversee planning and implementation.

NDIA’s toolkit aims to address this challenge by breaking down the planning process in a way that provides state leaders within a blueprint they can replicate for their constituents.

The toolkit can be accessed through NDIA’s website. Within this resource, one can find background information to better understand the Digital Equity Act, general recommendations, recommended components for the digital equity plan and a breakdown of how to build a plan section by section.

It includes templates and worksheets that range from mapping and data collection to community outreach planning. The resource also includes comprehensive examples that paint a picture of what this work might look like.

To create this toolkit, the NDIA team paired internal subject matter expertise with insight from over 1,000 affiliates throughout the country and with support from Microsoft.

Separately, the NDIA announced that the window is open for nominations for the 2023 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Awards. These awards recognize leadership in the digital equity space and will be presented during the NDIA Net Inclusion 2023 conference. The nomination window will be open through Dec. 19.


A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) presents information on the state of U.S. broadband deployment, adoption and price — and compares the progress against the rest of the world.

The first iteration of this report was published in 2013, but as technologies and demand have changed, the new report provides important updates.

The report’s findings suggest that the U.S. leads the world in high-speed broadband service deployment, but adoption rates are lacking, for reasons including a lack of digital literacy and cost challenges.

“Services are available almost everywhere,” said Jessica Dine, a research assistant for broadband policy at ITIF and co-author of the report in the announcement. “But there is room for improvement when it comes to adoption. If policymakers want to close the digital divide, that is where they should focus the most attention.”


U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, announced that he will be launching a nationwide oversight effort to review multiple broadband programs to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used effectively. In his announcement, Thune said he sees this as a priority as billions of dollars in federal funding are becoming available to expand networks.

Thune sent a letter to state that he is seeking input from stakeholders about the current broadband regulatory structure.

“Every federal dollar that has been spent should go toward the stated purpose of expanding connectivity to truly unserved areas,” he stated in the announcement. “It is time for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and hold the government accountable to hardworking taxpayers.”


While states prepare for federal funding, cities are also working to ensure residents are aware and taking advantage of the subsidies available to them.

In Providence, R.I., the Mayor’s Center for City Services now has a dedicated broadband community outreach coordinator. The role was created to help answer city residents’ questions about eligibility and provide assistance with applications for the program. Residents can be connected to the coordinator via the 311 line.

In the announcement, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza encouraged all residents who think they may be eligible to call for more information.


In other city news, New Yorkers this week witnessed the launch of the Queens Gigabit Center in the Jamaica neighborhood. This is the third gigabit center launched in NYC this year, following one in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. The center offers residents a space to access free high-speed Internet, computers and technology training.

This announcement is part of the Office of Technology and Innovation's (OTI) partnership with LinkNYC. It follows numerous other OTI initiatives that work to deliver on the city plan to combat the digital divide, including Big Apple Connect and the installation of Wi-Fi kiosks throughout the city.
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.