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What’s New in Digital Equity: FCC Reports on Maui’s Comms Status

Plus, more than 20 million households have now enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program; Sen. Warnock urges the FCC to fight digital discrimination; a bipartisan group in the U.S. House requests ACP extension; and more.

 A neighborhood in Lahaina on Maui that was destroyed by wildfires.
Homes and businesses lay in ruins after last week’s devastating wildfire swept through Lahaina. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Robert Gauthier/TNS
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:


Following the recent wildfire in the historic town of Lahaina, Hawaii, that forced thousands of people to evacuate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has provided a status report on communications for those impacted.

Initially, a lack of electricity and Internet service left many residents disconnected. But according to the FCC report, the status of communications can change quickly during an event like this. The report captures a snapshot in time as of 12 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time on Aug. 16, 2023.

In the area of 911 services, the report stated that the Maui Police Department Public Safety Answering Point is fully functional. However, some 911 calls are not being completed due to some cell sites in the affected area being down and the Lahaina switch being isolated.

Nine of the 21 cell sites serving Kapalua, Napili-Honokowai, Kaanapali, Lahaina, Launiupoko and Olowalu are currently down. This represents an improvement following the Aug. 14 status report showing that 19 sites were out of service. The report notes that site outages do not necessarily correspond to wireless service availability. An unspecified number of wireless companies have deployed mobile assets to the island to provide support while site outages are addressed.

Some 16,700 subscribers of cable and wireline company services are reportedly out of service in the affected area, which impacts some phone, TV and Internet services. This is also down from the Aug. 13 report, which showed that more than 17,000 subscribers were out of service.

Five AM radio stations observed are in service — one more than on Aug. 13. The FCC may also grant Special Temporary Authority to allow temporary operation of certain radio facilities during urgent conditions. (Julia Edinger)


This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that more than 20 million households have enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). This is the result of the FCC engaging with organizations at the local, state and federal levels, having been involved with more than 1,400 events related to raising awareness and enrollment.

With today’s announcement, the portion of eligible households enrolled nationwide is at 38.3 percent, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance ACP Dashboard. This is one of several key tools highlighted last week in a National Digital Inclusion Alliance webinar that can help stakeholders understand and manage data related to the ACP. (Julia Edinger)


In other ACP news this week, members of Congress are speaking out. Following repeated statements from stakeholders — including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation — that call on Congress to take action to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), 45 bipartisan members of Congress are now voicing their support for the program’s continuation.

The program funding is expected to run out in 2024, creating a sense of urgency to ensure households do not lose access to critical services and potentially cause a loss in trust in government programs.

In a letter today, the coalition led by representatives Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., urge the inclusion of full funding for the program in the upcoming government appropriations bill.

“If funding for ACP is not extended, it would not only put the program’s success at risk, but also impede the progress of other federal broadband investments and initiatives,” the letter states. (Julia Edinger)


A pair of senators are urging the FCC to combat digital discrimination through rulemaking after media reports found that formerly redlined neigbhorhoods in Atlanta were currently getting substandard Internet deals, the lawmakers have announced.

The news was reported late last year by the Associated Press, with the senators citing it in a new letter sent to the FCC this month. The commission is already required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to issue rules that eliminate digital discrimination within the next two years. What the senators are urging is that the action be taken more swiftly. The letter was sent by Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Sen. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., primarily with signatures also from Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt.; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“Digital discrimination is a pervasive harm to communities of color and underserved groups in the United States,” the senators wrote in their letter. “Many households in low-income communities are eligible for Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), but a recent investigation found that Internet service providers charge these communities more for comparable service.”

In addition to the Associated Press, the news was also reported by The Markup.

The full text of the letter can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


Last week, senators John Kennedy and Jeanne Shaheen introduced the Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act, a bipartisan bill aiming to support small businesses with access to broadband Internet and other IT resources.

The goal of this legislation is to improve Small Business Administration (SBA) programs by requiring the agency’s Office of Investment and Innovation to name someone to serve as broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT) coordinator. In addition, it would require BEIT training for SBA employees; reporting on SBA’s work in this space; evaluation of the impact of broadband for small business; and authorization for small business development centers to help businesses use BEIT. (Julia Edinger)


The White House has announced more investments in producing products related to high-speed Internet domestically.

This week’s announcement — made by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu — was made in Huntsville, Ala., where the federal officials visited telecommunications manufacturer Adtran. Adtran announced a roughly $5 million investment at their facility there that will see them manufacturing key electronics equipment to be used in the nation’s ongoing expansion of high-speed Internet. Officials estimated this investment could create as many as 300 new jobs.

This is a direct result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which had provisions that required that construction materials for federally funded construction projects — which includes a historic broadband expansion — be made in the country.

This announcement comes about a week after Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Wisconsin for a similar announcement. (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.