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What’s New in Digital Equity: FCC Updates National Broadband Map

Plus, Mississippi nets more federal funds to connect residents to affordable Internet, Connecticut directs $10 million to upgrade its senior centers, and more.

The entrance to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C.
The entrance to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C.
Shutterstock/Mark Van Scyoc
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) has updated its national broadband maps, doing so with the results of a challenge process that included more than 4 million submissions, officials announced in a press release.

This update comes after a draft of new national maps was released in November, marking the federal government’s first attempt at visualizing American broadband data that was more granular than Census blocks. For years, the federal maps were kept by Census blocks, using data submitted by Internet service providers. This drew criticism, with opponents saying it wasn’t accurate to say an entire area was connected because only one house in the Census block had Internet. The new draft in November sought to get much more specific than that, as well as to let residents and businesses file challenges, within which they shared their own Internet speeds.

The updated maps incorporate those challenges, with 75 percent of the more than 4 million challenges having already been resolved, the FCC reported, “and the majority have led to updates in the data on the map showing where broadband is available,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a statement.

In addition to resident and business challenges, the new map also incorporates broadband availability data gleaned from automated checks made by the FCC to validate the data submitted by Internet service providers. So far, this process has led to more than 800 verification inquiries, resulting in more than 600 updates to the submitted data, a result of what FCC officials described as “more stringent” verification.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) pointed out in a press release that “the overall national story remains consistent” because from version one to version two of the map, the percentage of unserved locations in the country increased by 0.2 percentage points.

This week’s update, however, is not the end of this process. Moving forward, the FCC noted, the plan is to release a major map update twice a year, with incremental updates made on a rolling basis. The end goal of all the work is to get a clear picture of where Internet access is available in the United States, as well as where to find the estimated more than 8.3 million households or businesses that still lack a reliable high-speed Internet connection.

Another major milestone for the ongoing effort to get the entire country connected is slated for the end of the month: on June 30, the NTIA is planning to announce federal funding allocations for the states through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which is slated to provide $42.5 billion to get the U.S. connected. (Zack Quaintance)


The U.S. Treasury Department has approved $151.5 million for high-speed Internet projects in Mississippi, doing so under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund, the Treasury Department has announced.

Mississippi officials estimate the money will help connect roughly 47,300 homes and businesses to affordable high-speed Internet. The state is putting the funding toward its own Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi (BEAM) fund, which is a new competitive grant program. Those grants will go toward funding three different types of investments: large-scale projects, line extensions and community-based broadband projects.

BEAM is also designed to prioritize last-mile fiber applications, which are notoriously the most difficult to get connected. (Zack Quaintance)


Senior centers in Connecticut are getting $10 million for upgrades. The funding, which comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, will support both facility improvements and programming.

“From exercise classes to digital literacy trainings to cultural excursions, senior centers in Connecticut provide programming that is vital to the social and emotional well-being of older adults,” said U.S. Representative Jim Himes in the announcement.

Nine million dollars is designated to be distributed to municipalities to support upgrades. The remaining funding will support statewide senior center activities by the direction of the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services. This may include improving online services, events, and engagement for centers. (Julia Edinger)


In addition to the updated broadband map, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now open for nominations for the Communications Equity and Diversity Council, a committee which aims to make recommendations to the FCC related to advancing equity in access to digital communication services and products.

Membership is open to organizations that represent disadvantaged communities — including people with racial, social, or economic disadvantages and small businesses owned by women, minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals and veterans — federal, state, local and tribal government agencies, broadband providers, minority-serving institutions and other stakeholders.

All nominations should be submitted to the FCC no later than 11:59 p.m. ET, June 30, 2023. The announcement provides additional information on the committee and applications. (Julia Edinger)


San Francisco has launched a new program that will provide free tablet computers to people incarcerated in the city and county jails there, stakeholders have announced.

The intent is that with these tablets, incarcerated people can prepare for re-entry by looking for jobs, finding housing, participating in education and taking part in well-being programs. They can also use the tablets to access legal resources, make medical requests or submit grievances. Finally, the devices will let them access e-books, audiobooks, movies and music through a new collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library.

Other uses for the tablets can include participation in English as a Second Language courses, attendance of religious services and more. A report — from the local government and the nonprofit group The Financial Justice Project — shares more details about the new program. (Zack Quaintance)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.