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What’s New in Digital Equity: Federal Lawmakers Introduce ACP Extension

Plus, a new fact sheet from the FCC looks at the future of the ACP; California launches a website to track infrastructure investment; the White House puts $80 million toward wireless innovation; and more.

U.S. Capitol building at night
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:


Perhaps one of the most pressing digital equity issues of 2024 is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which is slated to run out of funding this year unless action is taken. This week, a group of senators took a step towards that necessary action with the bipartisan, bicameral introduction of the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act. The legislation would provide $7 billion for the ACP, enabling its continuation. Without action, the program’s funding is slated to run out by April.

Notably, the FCC issued guidance today to begin winding down this program in case no action is taken to sustain funding.

“Access to high-speed Internet isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” said Sen. Peter Welch in an announcement. “That’s why it’s never been so important to avoid this funding cliff and extend the ACP.”

For the 22.5 million households that have used the program’s monthly discount of up to $30 for Internet service — up to $75 monthly for those on tribal lands — the program helps make connectivity affordable.

This legislation is supported by more than 400 organizations with a vested interest in digital equity, including AARP, American Civil Liberties Union, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, AT&T, Comcast and more.

“A loss of funding will mean a loss of trust in this public-private partnership that could squander this opportunity to close the digital divide,” Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Anna Gomez said in a statement in support of the legislation.

This legislation marks the delivery on a series of calls from stakeholders for Congress to take action, including those from the Biden-Harris administration, a coalition of governors, a group of senators and a variety of other organizations. (Julia Edinger)


In other Affordable Connectivity Program news, the FCC this week called on Congress to take action. The FCC released both a letter and a fact sheet detailing the current state of the program’s future.

In the letter, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel urges Congress to take action to secure additional program funding, reiterating the Biden-Harris administration’s request for an additional $6 billion for the program to ensure funding through the end of 2024. The fact sheet released by the FCC states that funding is expected to last only through April 2024.

The FCC noted that it expects to start readying for the program’s end — officially issuing guidance today to wind down the program — to give those that will be impacted time to prepare. (Julia Edinger)


In other state news, a new California website highlights investments in the state’s infrastructure, including but not limited to those related to broadband. The website outlines how $180 billion in state and federal infrastructure investments over the next decade will impact — and already are impacting — the state. The website hosts an interactive map that displays featured projects and spotlight stories and a project list that users can filter based on county, topic (such as broadband), or type. Users can also search projects by keywords.

The website builds on several other actions by the state, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of legislation last year to accelerate critical infrastructure projects, and his signing of an executive order last year to establish the Infrastructure Strike Team to support goals to fast-track infrastructure projects. (Julia Edinger)


The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded nearly $80 million in grants designed to support wireless innovation, officials have announced.

The money is the third round of grants through the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. That group includes the first awards within the program’s testing and evaluation category, which aims to make testing just generally more accessible in the wireless ecosystem.

“By investing in open, interoperable networks, NTIA is laying the foundation for a stronger, more secure and more resilient telecommunications supply chain,” officials noted in a press release.

The Wireless Innovation Fund totals $1.5 billion and its goal is to support the development of open and interoperable wireless networks.

More information, including an announcement video, can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


Ohio leaders are supporting ongoing efforts in Cleveland to connect everyone there to high-speed, affordable broadband, officials have announced.

The Ohio Department of Development’s BroadbandOhio is partnering with city leaders in Cleveland as well as Cleveland-based DigitalC, a digital equity nonprofit. The partnership is aimed at creating a new broadband network there that will offer high-speed Internet at affordable prices throughout the city. This comes after the National Digital Inclusion Alliance identified Cleveland as one of the worst-connected cities in the country back in 2019.

BroadbandOhio will supply $10 million in grants for this project, while the city is going to offer up as much as $20 million in support. DigitalC, meanwhile, plans to break ground on the citywide broadband expansion this month with a goal of getting the entire city connected by the middle of 2025.

On top of helping to create the low-cost Internet service, DigitalC will also work to encourage residents of the city to adopt the new service by offering them digital literacy training.

More information about this work 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.