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What’s New in Digital Equity: All 50 States Get Federal Internet Planning Grants

Plus, a new piece of legislation would create a digital equity division for Washington, D.C.; an Indiana data map includes 12 different digital equity variables within the state’s counties; and more.

Rows of $100 bills.
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:


The federal government has now awarded Internet for All planning grants to all 50 states, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced.

This federal money is aimed at supporting state-level efforts to deploy new or more affordable high-speed Internet networks, as well as to develop digital skills training programs. What happens now is that the states will use the funds to develop plans and proposals they will submit to the federal government, which then plans to bestow more money to make those plans happen.

All of this is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which earmarked $65 billion in funding for high-speed Internet. Within that, the act called for $2.75 billion to go specifically toward digital equity, an investment that advocates in the space have described as historic.

The way this is playing out varies by state. In Massachusetts, for example, just more than $1 million of funding will go toward digital equity, with officials there saying it will enable the state to hire a digital equity specialist, develop a statewide digital equity plan, work on the issue with higher education institutions, and also collaborate with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance on advice and best practices.

News about where all of this money is going and how it will be spent is certain to continue developing through the course of the New Year, with advocates in the space saying that while it does represent a historic investment, how the money is spent will ultimately determine the amount of progress the country makes toward helping all of its residents participate in our increasingly digitized society. (Zack Quaintance)


A recently passed bill has paved the way for the Office of the Chief Technology Officer in Washington, D.C., to continue building a digital equity division.

First introduced in April 2021, the bill was passed unanimously by the city council in December. It has been sent to the mayor’s office to be signed ahead of a Jan. 18 deadline. It would codify reporting of Internet access in D.C., and it would require that the district work toward ensuring that all of its residents have access to high-speed Internet at home.

Part of the division’s job would be to identify and subsequently tackle digital equity barriers. Other requirements include reporting on the city’s participation in federal programs aimed at combating the digital divide, as well as developing a study related to the feasibility of federal funding for fiber and broadband infrastructure, with that study being due within a year of the bill’s passage.

As reported in this space last year, Washington, D.C., has been working on digital inclusion for some time. The office is just now being codified as part of this bill, but it was first created in May. (Zack Quaintance)


A new map created by the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) explores digital equity in the state of Indiana. The map used 12 variables: rural, minorities, veterans, poverty, disabled, age 60 or older, limited English, foreign born, households with cell data only, households with no Internet, households with mobile devices only, and households with no computing devices. For each variable, census tracts were rated low, moderate or high.

Based on these variables, the visualization breaks down the state by census tracts and identifies those tracts in which populations rank high for multiple variables with a dark blue color. The dark blue census tracts on the map represent “hot spots” to help focus digital equity efforts on those communities with the greatest need.

“Our latest number crunching helps identify areas ripe for digital equity interventions in Indiana due to digital inequity AND a higher share of covered populations (per the Digital Equity Act),” wrote Roberto Gallardo, PCRD director, in a tweet. (Julia Edinger)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is extending the comment period for consumer broadband labels, an initiative aimed at bringing more transparency to the process of paying for high-speed Internet.

The comment period regarding this matter was originally slated to end on Jan. 17, with reply comments subsequently due on Feb. 14. The new extension is 30 days, meaning the first period will now end on Feb. 16, with the reply comments due on March 23.

Cited in the expansion announcement is that the initial period overlapped with the busy December holiday season. (Zack Quaintance)


The application windows will be closing soon for the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program (ACP Outreach Grant Program) and two pilot programs. The ACP Outreach Grant Program was created in November 2022 by the Federal Communications Commission to increase awareness about the Affordable Connectivity Program. This program provides grant funding for complementary programs.

Completed applications to the ACP Outreach Grant Program are due Jan. 9 by 11:59 p.m. EST and can be submitted through

In addition, completed applications for the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program must be submitted through on Jan. 9 by 9 p.m. EST. (Julia Edinger)


Experts are increasingly raising concerns about the digital divide and how it can be dangerous when it comes to alert systems for weather and climate emergencies.

Recent research found that “a lack of available crisis information or poorly managed information flow” can lead to disaster response failures. A 2017 report from the Wireless Infrastructure Association also stated that “lack of robust infrastructure can lead to a significant disparity of available emergency services for rural residents.”

In an emergency, state, local and tribal officials can use Wireless Emergency Alerts to send a message to mobile phones, but room for improvement remains within this piece of the digital equity puzzle. (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.