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What’s New in Digital Equity: New Resource to Support Digital Equity Implementation

Plus, states begin to see their initial proposals for the BEAD program accepted, broadband leadership is changing in Illinois, and more.

A person's hands hold a tablet that says "EQUITY" with graphics of charts floating in space around it.
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:


A new 144-page manual from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) aims to guide states, territories and the District of Columbia through the implementation of their digital equity plans, to maximize the impact of the Digital Equity Act funding.

The manual is a sequel to the State Digital Equity Plan Toolkit, released by NDIA in 2022 to offer best practices, guidance and more to support state leaders in their digital equity planning.

The State Digital Equity Implementation Manual offers best practices to establish, implement and measure digital inclusion strategies’ effectiveness. It offers information about the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, a $1.44 billion program to support the implementation of states’ digital equity plans.

The resource breaks down the role of collaboration in digital inclusion work, best practices and an outline of steps to take to develop implementation strategies, and offers a plethora of information about various subgrant models and best practices.

It highlights the needs and barriers of specific marginalized populations — including individuals who are incarcerated, individuals with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities — and best practices to support their inclusion. The path to achieving digital equity may vary when reaching different people and places or overcoming different barriers, according to the manual.

“This is particularly true for under-resourced, underrepresented, vulnerable, and oppressed populations, whom the digital divide disproportionately impacts,” it said.

The manual also explores information on measurement metrics, to evaluate the impact of the implementation work ahead for states.

The resource concludes with a message underlining the need to work together to close the digital divide, ending with the words of Congress: “achieving digital equity is a matter of social and economic justice and is worth pursuing.”

Separately, NDIA has published a web page dedicated to providing information on digital inclusion coalitions. This one-stop shop offers information on the role and work of coalitions in this space, and links to NDIA’s Coalition Guidebook and its Coalitions Leadership Brief. According to NDIA’s announcement, this page is just the beginning.


Last month, the announcement came that all 50 states had their digital equity plans accepted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Now, in the next step of the process, states are beginning to have their initial proposals for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program accepted — part of the Internet for All initiative.

These approvals allow states to request access to funding and begin BEAD program implementation. All BEAD-eligible entities — 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia — were required to submit this initial proposal detailing their plans for BEAD funding allocations by Dec. 27.

As of this morning, NTIA has announced the approval of the following entities’ proposals: Delaware, Kansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. NTIA will continue announcing proposals on a rolling basis.


In other state news, Illinois is seeing a leadership transition in broadband. There are two pieces to this transition. First, Devon Braunstein has been tapped to serve as the deputy director of the Illinois Office of Broadband at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. At the Illinois Broadband Lab at the University of Illinois System, Matt Schmit is taking on the role of senior director of broadband. These two organizations work in alignment to support digital equity in the state.

According to the announcement, this transition aims to provide leadership stability to help Illinois prepare for the implementation of Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program funding.


According to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program encourages overspending by states on fiber-optic infrastructure — and it does so at the expense of digital inclusion initiatives.

“If states are open to less-costly alternatives to fiber, then they should be able to use BEAD funds to achieve universal coverage and still have resources to spare for other digital inclusion programs,” ITIF stated in its announcement.

To create the report, ITIF analyzed initial funding proposals submitted by 34 states, exploring three primary criteria: practicing tech neutrality, creating an efficient regulatory and programmatic environment, and addressing digital inclusion.


BroadbandNow has released a report underlining the fact that despite an uptick of municipal broadband networks in recent years, 17 states currently have restrictive legislation against them.

The report’s key findings cite the launch of 47 new community networks since 2021. Four states have no municipal broadband networks and 17 states have laws in place that act as a significant barrier to their launch. During the past year, no states with existing barriers have managed to remove them.

The states with explicit municipal broadband bans are as follows: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
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.