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What's New in Digital Equity: Colorado Removes Broadband Barrier

Plus, a new report looks at what digital inclusion efforts are lacking, a pair of organizations are partnering to promote broadband careers to students and more.

Colorado license plate
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:


In a legislative shift that has the potential to transform broadband deployment in the state, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183 this week. The bill removes a major barrier to deploying universal broadband by revising a law that was established in 2005.

The 2005 law, SB05-152, prohibited most uses of municipal or county money for infrastructure to improve local broadband service without getting voter approval to opt out. With the new legislation, local governments are granted the authority to provide broadband service without holding a local election.

“SB23-183 removes the biggest obstacle to achieving the governor’s goal to connect 99 percent of Colorado households by the end of 2027,” said Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter in the announcement.

The announcement further notes that local governments have not historically had direct involvement in delivering telecommunications services, but as connectivity is increasingly deemed as essential as a utility like water, the role of local governments is shifting.

The 2005 law was the largest obstacle in the initiative to launch a city-owned broadband network in the city of Fort Collins. The city had to get residents to approve an exemption before moving forward. Fortunately, the community overwhelmingly approved the exemption with 83 percent support when it was put to a vote in 2015. Officials said that community involvement and support was critical to the advancement of the network, which acts as a sort of municipal broadband blueprint for other communities in the state.

In the next five years, the state is expected to receive federal funding from the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund Program and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure and digital equity programs. Now, local governments are better poised to take advantage of this funding. (Julia Edinger)


A new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation — The Digital Inclusion Outlook: What It Looks Like and Where It’s Lacking — argues that the main digital inclusion challenge is not deployment, but adoption.

Furthermore, the report findings detail that successful efforts to combat the digital divide tend to be flexible and individualized, adapting programs to meet local needs. To get more people online, digital inclusion efforts should address the barriers of low digital literacy and affordability.

The sources of barriers must be addressed to fill the gaps, and the report also underlines that these gaps primarily affect marginalized groups. (Julia Edinger)


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association’s Smart Communities program and the National Rural Education Association (NREA) have created a toolkit to help educators and communications providers increase awareness of broadband careers among K-12 students.

The toolkit aims to provide best practices and other guidance as part of NTCA’s effort to create a skilled workforce capable of delivering on current and future broadband needs. In the announcement, NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield argued that the best place to find future employees to maintain broadband networks in rural America is among the students in these areas.

Within the toolkit are samples of the kinds of career opportunities that exist in this space and steps to help advance students’ knowledge of and experiences with broadband career resources, including both employers and certifications. (Julia Edinger)


Hawaii is getting $115.5 million more for high-speed Internet through the U.S. Department of Treasury, officials have announced.

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan's Capital Funds Project, which has developing broadband infrastructure among its priorities. This award comes after the University of Hawaii worked with the state's Department of Budget and Finance to submit a grant application for it in fall 2022.

“The pandemic showed that there are access disparities in Hawaii to affordable and reliable Internet service,” said Gov. Josh Green in a statement. “I thank President Biden and his administration for providing federal resources to help our state improve Internet access for all residents. High-speed Internet is critical for education, telehealth services, job opportunities and information.”

More information can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


Finally, Philadelphia has now made Spanish and Chinese translations available for its city website, officials announced.

This is part of an ongoing effort to improve language access on, dubbed the Translation Services Expansion Project. Later this year, the city plans to add seven more languages: Arabic, French, Haitian, Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Vietnamese.

This is a joint effort between the Office of Innovation and Technology and the Office of Immigrant Affairs, and it's partially funded by the Operations Transformation Fund, which gives the city money to bolster initiatives that prioritize equity and accessibility. Not long ago, the city also launched the Language Service Usage Dashboard, an interactive tool that illustrates preferred language services used by residents when they access city programs.

More information about this news, as well as the ongoing effort to bolster language accessibility, can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)
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.
Associate editor for <i>Government Technology</i> magazine.