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What’s New in Digital Equity: Colorado Broadband Laws Signed

Plus, the FCC is updating its broadband data collection process, Texas has launched a dashboard on public library Internet speeds, Louisiana is offering online skills training, and more.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis sits at table with a blue tablecloth signing bills, with the following people behind him: Colorado Broadband Office staff, Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, Rep. Cathy Kipp, and Fort Collins and Larimer County officials.
Joined by state and local officials, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, seated, signs bills.
Credit: State of Colorado
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:


Earlier this week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed several broadband bills into law, each of which will support improved Internet access for Coloradans. This legislation includes House Bills 24-1036, 24-1234, 24-1334 and 24-1336.

The first, HB 24-1036, ensures that broadband providers are able to receive a refund on state sales and use tax for property that is installed to provide broadband service, with the intention of boosting infrastructure expansion in rural areas.

The second, HB 24-1234, ensures that the High-Cost Support Mechanism will continue to be operated by the Public Utilities Commission to provide financial aid for broadband in rural areas, with the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) administering and distributing funds.

The third, HB 24-1334, dictates that a multiunit building owner cannot deny a broadband provider access to the property to install broadband infrastructure.

The fourth, HB 24-1336, expands the ways in which the state can use broadband funding. Not only will it enable support for middle-mile infrastructure, fiber networks and high-cost areas, but it will also extend access to funding for local governments and nonprofits.

“We are grateful to the governor for signing these laws, the bill sponsors and the Broadband Deployment Board for their years of invaluable consultation and commitment to expanding broadband access for Coloradans,” Brian Martin, program manager and CBO Broadband Deployment Board liaison, said in a news release.

This series of laws demonstrates the state’s commitment to expanding broadband access. The state also recently received attention for taking swift legislative action on AI.


At the national level, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to implement changes to its data collection process for updates to the National Broadband Map.

Officials shared the three primary changes to come in an Order and Declaratory Ruling last week. The first is clarification of the agency’s audit procedures to provide improved validation of service providers’ availability data. The second is the establishment of a process to account for network deployment changes over time. The third is the proposal of modifications to data collection requirements for greater precision of broadband availability data.

This follows the May 21 release of the National Broadband Map’s fourth iteration; the FCC will continue releasing updated versions every six months.


At the state level, Texas is also working to make broadband data more accessible. Through the new Texas Public Libraries Speed Test Dashboard, the Library Digital Opportunity office (LDO) at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
is offering an efficient way for public libraries — and their patrons — to compare Internet upload and download speeds with those across the state.
Screenshot of new Texas Public Libraries Speed Test Dashboard. Text reads "Speed Test Map" over a map of Texas with red, yellow, and green circles on it. Underneath, it reads "Speed by County" and lists average upload/download speeds for counties.
Screenshot of new Texas Public Libraries Speed Test Dashboard.
An interactive map allows users to visualize the data, which can be filtered by region, population and income level. As LDO Digital Opportunity Program Coordinator Henry Stokes emphasized in a news release, public libraries often provide communities with their only free source of Internet access. This data may also provide leverage to those libraries with insufficient Internet speeds for funding requests.

Public libraries in the state are encouraged to complete the annual Public Library Speed Test, which runs through Friday; data will be updated on the dashboard with 2024 speeds.


Evidence has shown that libraries play an essential role in closing the digital divide, and in the effort to close the gap on science, technology, engineering, arts and math education (STEAM). A new partnership between the State Library of Louisiana and Gale highlights both roles with the launch of an online learning platform for public libraries statewide. It’s called Gale Presents: Udemy.

The platform is available at no charge to all 334 public library locations in Louisiana, and offers more than 25,000 on-demand video courses with learning and upskilling opportunities. Course subjects range from IT certifications to technology to personal finance. In a state where 20 percent of the population lacks home Internet access and the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, this initiative aims to help mitigate the skills divide.

“So, our partnership with Gale is not just an opportunity to promote digital literacy among patrons, but to also help create economic growth within our communities through the public library,” Meg Placke, Louisiana’s state librarian, said in the announcement.


In other state news, a university-led initiative aims to bridge the digital divide in Maryland. Part of the state-funded Marylanders Online collaboration, the series of free courses looks to help state residents learn how to access government services online, such as applying for benefits through SNAP and Temporary Cash Assistance programs.

The course series comes from the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and University of Maryland Extension. The self-guided modules are designed to help people with limited digital literacy skills get equitable access to government in the age of digital services. The team responsible for the project hopes similar initiatives will be implemented in other states.


Federal legislation introduced last week, the Clarifying E-Rate Act of 2024, would expand Wi-Fi access into school buses by making them permanently eligible for E-rate funding.

“For many students, the time they spend on a school bus is more than just a commute — it’s a crucial time for learning and completing homework, especially [for] those with long commutes,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, who introduced the bill, said in the announcement.

The legislation is supported by major organizations including the National Education Association and the American Association for Public Broadband. The introduction of this bill follows the FCC’s October declaratory ruling that school buses’ Wi-Fi qualifies for E-rate funding.

Those opposing this move argue that the FCC’s E-rate authority is limited to classrooms and libraries.
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.