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What’s New in Digital Equity: Are You Paying Too Much for Internet?

Plus, New Mexico directs $36.8 million in grants through an Internet expansion pilot program, Nebraska nets $5.6 million in federal awards for boosting broadband, a report details Chicago digital divide progress, and more.

A person holding a utility bill in one hand while typing on their smartphone with the other.
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:


A new study by Consumer Reports has taken a close look at how much consumers are paying for broadband and what they are getting for their money.

Dubbed Broadband Pricing: What Consumer Reports Learned from 22,000 Internet Bills, the study found that Internet bills can also be confusing. It also noted that the median price for high-speed Internet per month in the United States is $74.99, and approximately half the households it looked at paid somewhere between $60 and $90.

Noting that “bills that are hard to understand make it difficult for consumers to budget and compare prices,” the study also reported some of the things that can make bills confusing. That list includes Internet service being part of a bundle, promotional discount rates, data cap charges and more.

It also found issues related to the speed of connections, one of which was that “some study participants clearly experience severe broadband speed limitations,” with connections that do not match the rates being advertised. The report also noted that many consumers are paying as much or more for sludgy broadband as those who have the highest speeds in the country.

The study also included some policy recommendations from Consumer Reports, such as making a broadband label that is easy to find, encouraging broadband competition and strengthening the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to oversee the market. (Zack Quaintance)


Some $38.6 million in funding has been announced through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, the first portion of a total $120 million that will be distributed through this program. The recipients announced today will receive funding that will be matched by $28.3 million in non-state funding for a total investment of $66.9 million.

There will be two additional waves of funding through this program; the application window for the second wave runs through Dec. 9, and for the third wave through Feb. 27, 2023. Applicants that were not awarded funding will be automatically considered for the next wave.

This pilot program sets the foundation for the state’s strategy to distribute forthcoming federal and state broadband investments. The official launch of the full Connect New Mexico Broadband Grant Program is expected to occur in early 2023. (Julia Edinger)


The state of Nebraska will leverage $5.6 million in federal grant funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to create strategic plans for broadband service expansion. The grant applications were submitted by the Connect Nebraska working group, which was created earlier this year to help maximize the impact of the new funding opportunities.

Through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, the state was awarded nearly $5 million in initial planning funds — plus nearly $600,000 through the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program — to help optimize the distribution of the estimated $100 million in additional federal funding that is forthcoming.

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission/Office of the CIO will lead the planning effort when the one-year grant period starts on Dec. 1. (Julia Edinger)


Since June 2020, one of every three Chicago Public Schools students has received access to broadband Internet at home, according to a new report from Kids First Chicago (K1C), a nonprofit group that collaborated with the city to make that happen.

The program is Chicago Connected, and it was launched as a direct response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were turning to digital learning to continue classes safely. While the one in three number is perhaps the most notable statistic, the report also points to the Chicago Connected program as proof of concept for how it and others like it can help bridge the digital divide.

Chicago Connected is one of the most successful and wide-scale digital equity programs conducted with the participation of local government. It’s a cross-sector effort, one that brings together local gov, nonprofits, Internet service providers and philanthropists. The report is filled with information about the impact the program has had in the city.

“Our analysis finds that, in just the first six months of Chicago Connected, we effectively halved the connectivity gap for Chicago’s school-age children — from roughly 110,000 children in 2018 to roughly 55,000 children by the end of 2020,” said Hal Woods, chief of policy at K1C. “Chicago Connected proves that we can solve big problems — when we partner and listen to those most impacted.”

In the report, K1C leaders point to three broad areas of focus for any effort to bridge the digital divide, including connectivity gaps, device gaps and digital skills gaps.

The report is titled Defeating the Digital Divide: How Chicago Can Achieve True Digital Equity, and it is available in both English and Spanish via the Kids First Chicago website here. (Zack Quaintance)


While states prepare for funding opportunities from the federal government, the same is happening at the local level. In Alabama, the city of Birmingham has partnered with the Affordable Connectivity Program and EducationSuperHighway for the creation of an awareness campaign called Connect99.

The initiative aims to help make residents in all 99 neighborhoods within the city aware of the Affordable Connectivity Program, whether they’re eligible, and how to apply for the subsidy. The campaign will entail several enrollment events across the city, during which residents can get information and assistance with the process.

More information can be found on the city’s website. (Julia Edinger)


Oklahoma is looking to hire a director for its state broadband office, according to a state employment posting.

First posted seven days ago, the job is still available and is housed within the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, reporting to the administrator. The compensation is up to $205,000 annually, depending on education and experience.

Responsibilities include providing broadband-related policy advice to the state’s executive branch, submitting periodic broadband reports to the state Legislature, overseeing broadband grant programs and more.

Interested parties can find more info, as well as a link to the application, through the state’s career website. (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.