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What's New in Digital Equity: More States Adding Broadband Offices

Plus, local leaders in Phoenix have teamed up to tackle digital equity in the region, registration is now open for the NDIA's annual Net Inclusion event, some stakeholders want more time on the FCC map process, and more.

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:


Last week, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen issued an executive order to create a state broadband office.

States are increasingly bolstering their capacity to manage broadband expansion with the emergence of broadband offices and broadband advisory boards. And while many of the offices are relatively new and small, the work ahead of them as federal funding becomes available is substantial.

State by state, the structure of this work and who is leading it varies. Some states have broadband directors working within other agencies; others have a specific team dedicated to the work. In any case, what was seen as rare or niche several years ago has become increasingly widespread, and Nebraska is the latest state to establish an office and staff dedicated to this work to maximize the impact of funding opportunities.

Patrick Redmond, the state broadband and infrastructure coordinator in the State Budget Division, will lead Nebraska’s new office on an interim basis while applications are considered for a permanent director.

“The Broadband Office has been formed to create a more transparent, flexible and proactive response for Nebraska's broadband needs,” said Pillen in the announcement.

The office, which will be housed within the Nebraska Department of Transportation, will offer direction for policy and planning decisions, create a broadband access map for the state, distribute funding, collaborate with government agencies and stakeholders and engage with communities. (Julia Edinger)


The Greater Phoenix region’s consortium of the Partnership for Economic Innovation, The Connective, has ended its 12-month role as the convener of the Greater Phoenix broadband task force. Moving forward, the work will be led by ASU Enterprise Technology, Sun Corridor Network and the Digital Equity Institute.

Launched in late 2021, The Connective organized this task force to convene local government for regular meetings to develop a regional strategy to combat the digital divide. As Arizona State University received $34.6 million in funding in September from Maricopa County for digital equity work, the university and partners are equipped to expand infrastructure and offer digital literacy training.

“We’ve organized, learned, planned and begun to build,” said Ben Williams, program manager for The Connective in the announcement. “But there is so much left to do.” (Julia Edinger)


Registration for Net Inclusion — the National Digital Inclusion Alliance's (NDIA) annual digital inclusion and equity event — is now open, with the event slated to take place Feb. 28 through March 2 in San Antonio.

Commiserate with the post-pandemic surge in digital inclusion interest, organizers note this will be the biggest iteration since they began holding it in 2016. On the event's website, organizers write, "We have more spots than ever before to accommodate the growing community of practitioners, policymakers, advocates, researchers and other digital inclusion leaders."

Topics to be discussed at the event include digital inclusion within health-care programs, how local government can support digital equity work, how to start a digital navigator program, and more.

Interested parties can register and get tickets now through the NDIA's website. (Zack Quaintance)


The Pew Charitable Trusts has created a new primer dubbed What States Need to Know About Federal BEAD Funding for High-Speed Internet Expansion.

This guide is a straightforward and easy-to-read source of info about the federal government's Broadband Equity, Adoption and Deployment (BEAD) Program as it pertains to the states. The program — which sends more than $42 million toward improving the nation's high-speed Internet infrastructure — was established as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The information in the new primer is wide-spanning, ranging from what exactly BEAD is to how funds will be allocated to how it will be implemented, and more.

The report can be read in full via Pew's website. (Zack Quaintance)


A group of more than 100 cities and organizations has signed an open letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), requesting — among other things — a 60-day extension for challenges to the commission's new broadband maps.

The signing deadline for the letter was Friday, with it going out to the FCC on Monday. Part of what the letter said was that the states do not have the resources necessary to challenge the map before the deadline, which is Jan. 13. The request would also see the eventual date for funding — currently scheduled to take place by June 30 — extended 60 days to match the additional challenge period.

An extension for something like this by the FCC would not be without precedent. In fact, just last week in this space we wrote about an extension to the comment period for the commission's consumer broadband labels.

The letter can be found in full here. (Zack Quaintance)


This week, two reports related to digital equity help illustrate the gaps and opportunities in this space.

First, a report published by the nonprofit organization Third Way explores the digital divide as it pertains to digital literacy.

The report found that one-third of Americans lack basic digital skills, hindering their economic participation. Notably, Black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately impacted. The report offers recommendations to help improve digital literacy.

Second, a study conducted by two nonprofit organizations, Project Ready and Newark Trust for Education, explores Internet inequity in the state of New Jersey. The findings revealed that the biggest barrier to access in the state is not the lack of infrastructure, but affordability. The goal of this study was to inform funding decisions made possible through Internet for All planning grants. (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.