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What’s New in Digital Equity: FCC Explores Broadband, Maternal Health Connection

Plus, the Public Library Association is awarding $1.27 million to support digital literacy workshops in libraries across the country, Michigan is building 525 miles of new high-speed Internet, and more.

An expectant mother using a laptop for a telehealth appointment.
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 Communications Commission (FCC) is exploring the role of broadband connectivity as it pertains to maternal health outcomes. This week, the FCC announced an update to its Mapping Broadband Health in America platform to incorporate data related to maternal health. The goal is that this will help enable policymakers, public health officials, and other stakeholders to better understand the relationship between Internet access and maternal health.

From an equity perspective, data suggests that this issue disproportionately impacts non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaska Native pregnant women at approximately two to three times the rate of non-Hispanic white pregnant women. Additionally, pregnant women in rural areas with limited access to health-care providers are 60 percent more likely to die than pregnant women in non-rural areas.

“The FCC is playing an increasingly greater role in advancing connected health and our latest effort to explore the ways in which broadband access can have an impact on the health and wellness of moms and moms-to-be is crucial work,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the announcement.

The platform’s addition of this data enables insights as to how maternal mortality and morbidity relate to broadband data, as well as the intersection between broadband availability and mental health provider shortages.

This action follows the direction of the Biden administration for the FCC to work with the CDC to include this data on the platform, as the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act was signed into law in December 2022. The U.S. is the only developed country whose maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity rates are increasing, and research suggests many of these events are preventable. (Julia Edinger)


In federal funding news this week, $930 million has been announced to expand middle-mile high-speed Internet infrastructure. The funding will support infrastructure expansion, building on the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program under the Internet for All initiative.

The middle-mile projects will deploy over 12,000 miles of new fiber that will pass within 1,000 feet of nearly 7,000 anchor institutions. The projects will cover over 350 counties across 35 states and Puerto Rico. Future-proof fiber will be the primary technology in these projects.

Grants range from $2.7 million to $88.8 million. Notably, awardees are investing an additional $848.46 million of outside fund matching. Additional grants will be announced on a rolling basis. (Julia Edinger)


The project aims to construct undersea routes between Charlevoix to Beaver Island to Gulliver in the UP, and Benton Harbor to Chicago as well as overland fiber routes connecting Charlevoix to Grayling, Port Huron to Flint and Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids.

At the state level, middle-mile infrastructure will have a significant impact on broadband expansion efforts. A $61 million grant to Peninsula Fiber Network in Michigan will help support middle-mile infrastructure through funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, addressing the unique needs of a state with two peninsulas. This middle mile infrastructure will help improve access and affordability for Michiganders. (Julia Edinger)


The Public Library Association (PLA) is supporting digital literacy and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) workshops in 200 libraries spread throughout 45 states.

The organization has announced that funding for this work will total $1.27 million, and that it is being accomplished with support from AT&T. The workshops will involve digital literacy courses that have been created by the PLA in conjunction with AT&T, all of which are also available for free at and AT&T ScreenReady.

The ACP component involves promoting the federal broadband adoption family to eligible library patrons. This is the second cohort of libraries to receive this support. In 2022, 160 libraries were chosen for similar support, and that cohort has held 1,500 workshops that helped an estimated more than 8,000 learners build skills with technology.

These workshops will be available in English and Spanish, and they will cover eight digital literacy topics, as well as how to apply for the ACP. Those topics include video conferencing, cybersecurity and more.

More information, as well as a full list of involved websites, can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed an investigation into how data caps can affect consumers and competition in the high-speed Internet space, the FCC has announced.

Rosenworcel has asked her fellow commissioners to support a formal Notice of Inquiry to learn how broadband providers specifically use data caps on consumer plans. For the uninitiated, data caps — also known as usage limits — are common, and they are when an Internet service provider restricts how much bandwidth or data a user can use.

“In particular, the agency would like to better understand the current state of data caps, their impact on consumers, and whether the Commission should consider taking action to ensure that data caps do not cause harm to competition or consumers’ ability to access broadband Internet services,” FCC officials wrote in a release. (Zack Quaintance)


Charlotte, N.C., has launched a scaled-up version of its Access Charlotte program, which aims to help bridge the digital divide in that community.

The program — stakeholders noted in a release announcing the upscale — builds off a successful small-scale pilot program of the same name. The new Access Charlotte will improve and get bigger, providing free Spectrum Internet and Wi-Fi to more than 5,000 households and 15 community spaces.

This is being done using federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, with the city working to set up a two-year program to pay for in-home Internet. Some money as part of this will also go toward work related to digital navigators.

More information can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


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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.