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What's New In Digital Equity: New York Pushes to Get People Connected

Plus, the White House announces $25.7 million in new Internet grants for tribal communities in two states, Delaware names an executive director for its newly created broadband office and more.

New York City panorama skyline at sunrise. Manhattan office buildings / skysrcapers at the morning. New York City panoramatic shot.
This week in “What’s New in Digital Equity,” our weekly look at government digital equity and broadband news:


Broadband efforts in New York are well underway, with new efforts to close the digital divide announced at both the state level and in New York City.

State officials have announced $100 million in federal funding to expand high-speed Internet access the state. The funding, which comes from the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF), is expected to help connect 100,000 homes.

This announcement follows on the heels of the CIO Angelo “Tony” Riddick announcing he would be stepping down from his role at the end of this month. Riddick previously told Government Technology that the governor’s ConnectALL initiative is the state’s largest single investment ever, encompassing many state efforts to close the digital divide.

The $1.2 billion plan pairs with federal funding from the CPF and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to make sure all communities in the state have access to broadband infrastructure, service and digital literacy programming.

The state has made significant progress in mapping and data collection, with the state Public Service Commission releasing an interactive broadband map last summer. The state has also been implementing service delivery pilots and grant programs to address gaps.

Officials in New York City are also working to fill the gaps within the municipality through programs such as Big Apple Connect, a free Internet program that serves people living in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments.

The program, launched on Sept. 19, 2022, will be expanding by nearly 50 percent to provide free Internet and basic cable TV service to 202 NYCHA developments.

This announcement builds on other city-level digital equity work, including a citywide strategic plan that outlines goals to enhance digital literacy among New Yorkers. (Julia Edinger)


Two grants totaling more than $25.7 million have been awarded to two tribal nations — the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota and the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico — according to an announcement from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“The days of poor to no service availability will be a thing of the past, and we can catch up with today's technology,” said Douglas Patricio, second lieutenant governor for the Pueblo of Acoma, in the announcement.

These grants are part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which has delivered more than $1.75 billion to 135 tribal entities. The new grants are expected to connect more than 1,500 unserved households and community anchor institutions to high-speed Internet service. (Julia Edinger)


Delaware has named Roddy Flynn as the executive director of its newly formed Delaware Broadband Office.

State CIO Jason Clarke appointed Flynn to lead Delaware's connectivity efforts. Flynn most recently served as deputy director of congressional affairs for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). From that position, Flynn was a White House appointee who led congressional affairs for the Biden Administration's Internet for All initiative.

The NTIA is tasked with implementing the $48 billion high-speed Internet expansion within the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Now, as the leader of a state broadband office, Flynn will be working on the other side to ensure Delaware's affairs are in order when the money is allocated.

The end goal, of course, is to make sure all residents of the state have access to affordable Internet, as well as the skills and devices they need to meaningfully use them. All 50 states have received digital equity planning grants as the federal government prepares to allocate $2.75 billion for that work. States that did not previously have broadband or digital equity staffers have been quickly adding them.

It's all part of a priority shift in the digital equity space after the pandemic to emphasize high-speed Internet as essential for people to participate in the modern economy, as well as to access education and healthcare. (Zack Quaintance)


Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology, as well as the city's Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA), have announced a new partnership with the nonprofit group PCs for People.

This partnership comes after PCs for People won a city Request for Proposal to provide low-cost devices as well as tech support for eligible Philadelphia residents. PCs for People is offering low-cost computers, starting at $30 for a desktop and $50 for a laptop, as well as a $15 monthly Internet subscription. The Internet plan could even come free via the federal Affordable Connectivity Program.

The new contract with PCs for People, the city announced, is made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Independence Public Media Foundation to the DLA, as well as city general funds and previous DLA monies from partnerships with Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

PCs for People will even host a storefront for eligible residents, complete with office space for staff, intake, data destruction and a refurbishing center. More information can be found through the city. (Zack Quaintance)


Finally, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has reintroduced legislation that would expand broadband access to more rural communities.

The group consists of senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; John Thune, R-S.D.; John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act aims to "strengthen the funding mechanisms for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF)." That fund promotes universal access to broadband and currently is funded primarily through landline fees, which disproportionately impacts seniors.

The new legislation would direct the FCC to initiate a rule-making process to reform this system, taking fairness into account. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo. (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.