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What’s New in Digital Equity: Feds Approve First State CPF Broadband Plans

Plus, the FCC proposes new rules for broadband funding and transparency; Philadelphia launches a single-phone-call learning campaign for adults; Baltimore establishes an office of infrastructure development; and more.

The U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C.
Shutterstock/Bill Perry
The federal government has approved four new high-speed Internet plans from the states, which total $582.8 million in funding, the U.S. Treasury Department has announced.

The money is coming to these states — Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia — from the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Funds (CPF), which puts money toward critical projects needed to help enable work, education and health. In the official announcement from the Treasury, officials estimate that the funding will help connect roughly 200,000 total businesses and homes.

This wave of funding is separate from the massive investment the federal government is making in high-speed Internet through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The common quality between these four plans — which are the first wave of investments through the CPF but are not expected to be the last — is that they are going toward projects that once completed will deliver Internet service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). That’s the level of speed generally accepted as what is necessary for multiple users to seamlessly use the Internet for vital services such as telehealth or access to education and work.

Another requirement of all the plans being funded through the CPF is that any participating service providers also take part in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program. A key provision of that is providing a discount for those who qualify of $30 per month toward broadband. While these are the first state plans to be approved for funding through the CPF, the Treasury Department has already approved more than 30 awards for tribal governments in the U.S.

Officials will continue approving high-speed Internet plans for the CPF from state and tribal governments on a rolling basis with a deadline of Sept. 24.

In this wave, Louisiana was approved for $176.7 million, New Hampshire was approved for $50 million, Virginia was approved for $219.8 million, and West Virginia was approved for $136.3 million.

With all this funding coming down through multiple federal government channels to the states, it can be hard to keep track of it all. To that point, the White House this week released a new fact sheet detailing awards — as well as where they came from — on its website. (Zack Quaintance)

FCC PROPOSES TRANSPARENCY, DATA COLLECTION RULES FOR ACP


The FCC this week unveiled a proposal related to the Affordable Connectivity Program, aimed at transparency and data collection.

The transparency proposal involves collecting information through the National Lifeline Accountability Database. The notice the FCC sent out this week seeks comment on the data to be collected, the format in which that data should be published and the timing of the data collection. Another component that the FCC is seeking comment on is the measures for protecting personally identifiable or proprietary information. (Zack Quaintance)

BALTIMORE CREATES MAYOR’S OFFICE OF INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT


Last week, Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced a new office — the Mayor’s Office of Infrastructure Development (MOID) — to coordinate with and assist agency leaders for federal infrastructure projects and grant programs. The office aims to support the city’s distribution of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

In addition to being the central contact for federal and state infrastructure spending, the office will be responsible for establishing citywide standards and policies and offering support to agencies for projects, creating grant oversight protocols and coordinating major capital projects.

Matthew W. Garback, former deputy director for the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, will start in his new capacity as the city’s first Baltimore City Infrastructure Czar on July 18. Garback has over 16 years of public-sector experience with the city and the state of Maryland. (Julia Edinger)

KANSAS APPOINTS LOCAL MAYOR TO HEAD OFFICE OF BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT


Kansas has appointed Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho of Hutchinson, Kan., to head the state’s Office of Broadband Development, which is housed in the state’s Department of Commerce.

Piros de Carvalho is a third-term mayor of the city of roughly 40,000, and she also has experience in the private sector as a broadband executive. She worked for IdeaTek, a telecommunications company based in Kansas. Her work for IdeaTek involved government affairs, community relations, business development and marketing. In addition, Piros de Carvalho led digital equity efforts for the company.

In her new role with Kansas, she will work to direct the Commerce Department’s efforts to grow and expand broadband in Kansas.

“It is an honor to serve the state during this historic opportunity to bring every Kansan access to affordable high-speed broadband,” said Piros de Carvalho in a statement. “I look forward to collaborating with leaders across the state to ensure all Kansas communities have the broadband access needed for schools and businesses to thrive.” (Zack Quaintance)

SAN JOSE PROGRAM RAISES $130,000 FOR LAPTOPS FOR STUDENTS IN NEED


A digital equity initiative in the city of San Jose, Calif., reached a milestone last week, having raised $130,000 for purchasing new laptops for low-income students in the city. The city, in partnership with Revivn and the California Emerging Technology Fund, started this program through which they refurbish old devices, sell them and then use the profits to buy new devices for students.

“Closing the digital divide for our least-connected residents starts by getting them reliable devices for school and work,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in the announcement.

Revivn has capabilities to refurbish donated, retired devices, and then the company matches a portion of the donation proceeds. In addition to supporting the mission of digital inclusion, this effort helps address the issue of unused hardware. (Julia Edinger)

PHILADELPHIA SIMPLIFIES ACCESS TO ADULT LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES


Now, adult learners in the city of Philadelphia can enroll in the educational programs and classes available to them with one phone call to 1-833-750-5627. The hotline, funded by Philadelphia Works, is operated by PA CareerLink Philadelphia. The classes available to participants include basic computer skills, GED prep and more.

The city’s Office of Children and Families (OCF) will share information about the hotline and learning opportunities through multiple channels in an awareness campaign called “Next Level Learning” to reach a broad audience, using channels like social media and radio.

“We are confident this will better connect thousands of Philadelphia’s adult learners to education, digital skills training, and a path to job readiness,” said OCF Executive Director of Adult Education Christine Piven in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
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.