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What's New in Digital Equity: Dashboard Tracks Federal Internet Investments

Plus, a new report continues to emphasize the value of a unified approach to broadband, Cleveland finds a nonprofit partner for a citywide broadband network and more.

close-up of the U.S. Federal Reserve System seal on paper
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:


Information related to federal investments for high-speed Internet can be found on a new dashboard from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The dashboard was released alongside two new related reports from NTIA.

Broadband deployment has been a major topic of discussion among state officials, dominating 2023 State of the State addresses. Still, questions regarding how these funds are being used remain.

The dashboard that was released this week includes spending data from 13 agencies across 98 federal high-speed Internet programs, includes tribal broadband funding and data by federal programs at the state level, and classifies funding by whether it is appropriated, obligated or outlaid.

The dashboard was created to accompany and enhance The 2022 Federal Broadband Funding Report, an annual report that NTIA is required to submit to Congress in accordance with the ACCESS BROADBAND Act. The other report released this week, also developed in accordance with this legislation, is The 2022 Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Annual Report. This report includes data that serves as a benchmark of federal investments into high-speed Internet funding programs. Spending from federal initiatives passed after Fiscal Year 2021 are slated to be included in future iterations of the dashboard.

The reports include information related to the work of the NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, as well as how many households were provided broadband with federal support. They also offer a framework to inform future estimates related to the economic impact of broadband investment and deployment.

The ultimate goal of NTIA’s work in this space and the federal funding for broadband through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to make high-speed Internet available and accessible to all Americans through an initiative that has been deemed Internet for All.

“Today’s reports show how federal agencies across the Biden-Harris Administration are working together to target funding through the Internet for All initiative and close the digital divide,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)


Another federal report related to broadband was released this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) as the agency once again calls for a national strategy to address the digital divide. This report, titled Broadband: A National Strategy Needed to Coordinate Fragmented, Overlapping Federal Programs, argues that although the existence of numerous broadband programs can help tackle the complex issue of the digital divide, such fragmentation can increase the risk of delivering duplicative support.

The report underlines recommendations made by GAO in a May 2022 report that have not yet been implemented as of May 2023. First, GAO recommends that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration identify statutory limitations to broadband program alignment, develop legislative proposals and report on that information to Congress. Second, the Executive Office of the President should create and implement a national broadband strategy. (Julia Edinger)


Cleveland has picked DigitalC — a local nonprofit that works on digital equity — to help it deliver high-speed Internet to residents there.

As such, DigitalC will receive a $20 million grant through the city, which is funded by federal American Rescue Plan Act monies. In an announcement, officials noted that DigitalC was chosen as part of a competitive selection process. DigitalC did this by laying out a plan for citywide Internet with a cost of $18 per month along with free basic tech training for residents. Currently, DigitalC is engaged in this work within 16 city neighborhoods, and the new grant will help them take their work citywide.

DigitalC — and it's wide range of consortium partners — plan to help residents with digital inclusion challenges such as telehealth, online job applications, mobile banking, email and more.

This all comes to a city and community in need. Data from the American Community Survey has pegged Cleveland as one of the worst-connected cities in the country; as of 2021, as many as 29,000 households there lacked broadband at home.

This allocation, which was recommended by Mayor Justin Bibb, is still pending approval by the Cleveland City Council. More information about this new partnership can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


Washington's Depart of Commerce has hired Lisa Heaton as the state's managing director of broadband equity.

Heaton will work in partnership with the Washington State Broadband Office, officials noted in an announcement. Heaton previously served as the consumer advocacy program manager within the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

“Lisa shares Commerce’s mission to strengthen communities,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong in a statement. “Her experience developing relationships and trust with community partners will be invaluable as the State Broadband Office continues work that will unlock once-in-a-generation federal investments to ensure all residents have broadband access and skills necessary to engage in the digital economy.”

Heaton will be starting this new role on May 16, based out of the agency's headquarters in Olympia. This move continues Washington's commit to equitable broadband in the state. The 2023-2025 Washington biennial budget has more than $230 million in new operating, capital and federal broadband funding.

More information is available here. (Zack Quaintance)


New Orleans has launched a set of eight new mobile computer labs throughout the city as part of a partnership with Verizon, officials have announced.

The new labs were unveiled this week with a ribbon cutting ceremony, following an announcement in April that Verizon would be teaming with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) to help bridge the digital divide. All eight of these sites — which are spread throughout the city — will give residents access to tech following any kind of citywide disaster. As such, they all have backup generators.

More information can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


Similar to the NTIA and GAO reports, a new report from the Center for Data Innovation explores the digital divide, but this report takes the standpoint that data, or the lack thereof, plays a significant role in achieving digital equity.

The report, titled Digital Equity 2.0: How to Close the Data Divide, argues that a lack of data collection or use requires new policy solutions to improve representation of all Americans. Two options for policymakers to address this are presented. The option is restricting data collection and data-driven technologies until they are equitable; the second is allowing such technologies to prosper while working to increase access for everyone.

The second option has been popular in working to combat the digital divide, and the report argues that the same option can also help close the data divide. (Julia Edinger)
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.