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What's New in Digital Equity: Massachusetts Builds Digital Accessibility, Equity Board

Plus, Maine is the first state to have its digital equity plan accepted, the NTCA is calling for a more effective challenge process for the national broadband map, and more.

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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 Massachusetts Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS) has announced that the state is seeking applications from members of the public to join the Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board.

The board was established through Executive Order 614, signed by Gov. Maura Healey in July 2023. The order outlined that the new board would be chaired by the state’s first chief IT accessibility officer (CIAO), and in January 2024, Ashley Bloom was appointed.

The board is intended to advise EOTSS and the CIAO about areas of policy, procurement and operations in which accessibility can be improved.

According to this week’s announcement, the board is specifically seeking members of the public “with expertise and/or lived experience with digital accessibility barriers.” Those appointed by the EOTSS Secretary Jason Snyder are slated to serve for two-year terms.

As Bloom previously told Government Technology, the board is a key part of the state’s IT accessibility work, intended to be a blend of government and non-government representatives to create a diverse and informed perspective.

“In a time when the majority of state business is conducted online and digitally, we recognize the urgency to make that digital experience accessible to all residents,” said Snyder in the announcement.

The application period will end on March 4. More information on applications to the board can be found on the state's website.


In other state news, Maine is the first state to reach the milestone of having the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) accept its digital equity plan. The state used $542,222 from the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program to create a plan that was aimed at addressing the digital divide and mitigating gaps in digital access, skills and affordability.

Just over a year ago, the NTIA announced planning grants had been awarded to all 50 states, aimed at supporting state-level broadband expansion efforts and skills training programs.

Some states are still continuing to submit their plans for acceptance from NTIA. NTIA will continue to accept plans on a rolling basis. Also, in the forthcoming months, NTIA will launch the $1.44 billion Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program.

All of this is made possible through the Digital Equity Act, under the broader Internet for All Initiative, which is part of the Investing in America Agenda. In total, the Digital Equity Act makes $2.75 billion available to establish three grant programs specifically targeted at promoting digital equity and inclusion. (Julia Edinger)


The NTCA — Rural Broadband Association has proposed ways for the FCC to improve the challenge process for the National Broadband Map, doing so via a new federal filing.

For those who are unfamiliar, the National Broadband Map is a federal effort to collect accurate data about the nation's Internet speeds and convey it visually. The speeds are reported by Internet service providers, and then potentially evaluated via a challenge process by individuals, as well as state, local and tribal governments.

In proposing changes to that process this week, the NTCA highlighted that the current challenge system does not entirely allow for finding the places where providers are unable to serve areas, or even to dispute the speeds they report.

The proposed changes are somewhat technical, but you can find them all in their entirety here, via the NTCA. (Zack Quaintance)


At the federal level, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Digital Service has announced significant funding for high-speed Internet expansion in rural areas.

A total of $51.7 million through the ReConnect Program and the Broadband Technical Assistance Program will support this work; $42 million will be provided through the former and $9.7 million will be provided through the latter.

In addition to the high-speed Internet investments announced this week, the announcement stated that the USDA will start accepting applications on March 22, 2024, for the fifth round of funding in the ReConnect Program.

The USDA Digital Service has also announced the launch of the first Digital Service Fellows Program this month. The new Fellows Program works to improve customer experiences across the USDA with technology by appointing fellows for a two-year minimum term. Fellows will join one of three tracks: customer experience strategy, procurement strategy and digital service delivery. (Julia Edinger)


In other federal news, $20 million in funding will support technology training for Job Corps students, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). As one study suggests, 92 percent of jobs now require digital skills.

The Job Corps Information Technology Academy, which is administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, aims to provide students with expanded career and technical training and other supportive services to bolster employment paths.

Ultimately, DOL will fund up to five projects to explore innovative approaches to IT-focused training for the Job Corps program, which was founded in 1964 to offer career-focused technical training to eligible people in the age range of 16 to 24.

More information about the program can be found on the Job Corps website. (Julia Edinger)
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.