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What's New in Digital Equity: A Push to Restore Net Neutrality

Plus, the federal digital discrimination task force is holding a listening session this week in New York City; Charlotte is launching a pilot program to increase tech transparency; and more.

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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:


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed restoring net neutrality rules, doing so in a speech this week.

The proposal comes after Congress approved President Joe Biden’s nominee to the fifth commissioner spot, giving Democrats a one commissioner majority. The net neutrality protections — which were put in place in 2015 under President Obama — were initially repealed in 2017, when under President Donald Trump, Republicans had majority control over the FCC. At that time, commissioners voted along party lines, with the three Republican commissioners voting to lift the rules and the two Democratic commissioners voting against.

Advocates of the net neutrality rules say they ensure that the Internet remains open, equitable and fair. This is the argument Rosenworcel made in her speech as well. She also connected net neutrality directly to digital equity and digital inclusion work, which has had near total buy-in politically after the COVID-19 lockdowns made clear how essential it is for everyone to have high-speed Internet connections in their homes.

“The Internet’s open design is revolutionary,” Rosenworcel said in her speech. “It means creating without permission, building community beyond geography, organizing without physical constraints, consuming content you want when and where you want it, and cultivating ideas not just around the corner but around the world. I believe it is essential that we sustain this foundation of openness — and that is why, for as long as I have served on the FCC, I have supported net neutrality.”

She also said she had shared proposed rulemaking that would restore net neutrality protections with her colleagues, and this was a first step in the process. Future steps would include a public comment section, with Rosenworcel noting that her goal is to work toward updating protections, with the goal being to maintain and protect a free and open Internet.

After the FCC repealed the protections under Trump, legislatures have taken up bills that would essentially replace them, but nothing has found enough support to make them official.

Rosenworcel’s push to restore the protections has set off a flurry of statements from advocacy groups and lawmakers on both sides of the argument. These reactions have also fallen largely along party lines.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., led a letter signed by 25 senators calling on the FCC to restore net neutrality, while Sen. Ted Cruz, D-Texas, made a statement against, arguing it would harm investment in broadband. (Zack Quaintance)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Task Force to Prevent Digital Discrimination, which was created last year to promote equitable broadband access nationwide, will be hosting a Sept. 29 listening session in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The listening session will allow the task force to gain insight from state, local and tribal governments and other stakeholders about the barriers preventing equal access to broadband. The agenda features presentations from the task force, local leaders and other stakeholders, and members of the public will be able to share their experiences.

This builds on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the FCC adopted in December 2022, which aims to implement provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law related to preventing digital discrimination. This and other listening sessions will help the task force gain information to help develop and adopt rules to facilitate equal access. (Julia Edinger)


The city of Charlotte, N.C.’s new open source communication standard, Digital Trust for Places and Routines (DTPR), aims to increase transparency and accountability for digital technologies in public spaces.

Currently, the standard is being piloted through the Knight Community DTPR Program. The city’s participation in this pilot is part of the SmartCLT 2027 framework, which aims to support developing strategies for digital equity, data rights and privacy.

The program uses signage to inform residents how to offer feedback online on how technology implementations impact them. (Julia Edinger)


The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) shared some of its plans for Digital Inclusion Week — which starts Oct. 2 — noting that it is hosting five special events, ranging from Digital Inclusion 101 to a workshop about digital navigators.

Digital Inclusion Week happens every fall, and it sees participating agencies, nonprofit groups and individuals nationwide host events aimed at supporting digital equity and digital inclusion. The NDIA is the organizing body for it, providing resources and a centralized spot online for interested parties to find out more about what’s happening.

A whole set of information and resources for the week can be found on the NDIA’s website now. (Zack Quaintance)


Three new tools from the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) aim to help understand and reduce disparities in telehealth.

The first is a Digital Infrastructure Disparities Score and Map, which uses a composite measure to score a community’s digital infrastructure. The second is an Economic and Social Value-Added Calculator, which aims to outline cost and value associated with telehealth-based interventions. The third is a toolkit that summarizes all the resources the group has to offer on this issue, including a new road map to address health-care access inequities.

Telehealth gained ground at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but when it became clear that it was likely here to stay, it also became clear that Internet access is closely tied to health outcomes. ATA’s new tools were released to help highlight the disparities that exist in terms of virtual access to health care. (Julia Edinger)


Finally, BroadbandOhio has awarded The Ohio State University $125,000 in grants to help the school’s department of agriculture get one of its satellite campus locations connected to high-speed Internet.

The grant goes toward connecting Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio. With high-speed Internet, the college can then use the site for projects that involve demonstrating autonomous farming equipment.

Advocates in the digital equity space have long stressed that getting high-speed Internet to rural areas is about more than just enabling people to browse online — it has the potential to support small businesses there and advance agriculture technology.

More info about this grant and what the money will support can be found via the announcement. (Zack Quaintance)
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.