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What’s New in Digital Equity: NTIA Announces $800 Million in Digital Equity Funding

Plus, the FCC is preparing for a vote that could restore rules around net neutrality, state digital equity plans are continuing to be accepted, and more.

Cyan-colored dollar sign made of data points connected over dark blue background
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 Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced the allocation of more than $800 million for digital inclusion work. The funding, which comes from the Digital Equity Act, will support states, territories and native entities in their work to bridge the digital divide.

The Notice of Funding Opportunity dictates that states and territories can apply for funding to begin implementing digital equity plans. These digital equity plans are being accepted by NTIA on a rolling basis, and they help to set objectives so progress can be measured as funding is put to work.

“Today’s announcement marks our nation’s single largest investment in digital equity ever,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communication and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said in the announcement.

This funding is available through the $1.44 billion Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, one of three grant programs established through the Digital Equity Act as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Through this program, about $760 million is being made available to 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. About $45 million is being made available to native entities. And finally, about $8.4 million is being made available to territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The launch of this program follows the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, through which NTIA began awarding $60 million in funding to states and territories in 2022. The next program, which will be launched in the coming months, is the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. This $1.25 billion grant program will fund the implementation of digital equity projects.

More information about these programs, and how to apply for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, can be found on the Internet for All website. (Julia Edinger)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote during its April Open Meeting on whether to restore net neutrality.

That meeting is slated for April 25. If the restoration is adopted, it would allow the FCC to prevent federal-level broadband providers from deliberately slowing down Internet speeds for different users. It would also give the FCC the ability to require private companies to address Internet outages. And it would create nationwide rules around matters relating to these issues, rather than patchwork state-by-state rules that sprang up when net neutrality protections were lifted in 2018.

This is an issue that has fallen almost entirely along partisan lines. Net neutrality protections were first established when the FCC was under majority Democrat control during the Obama administration. They were then repealed when Republicans established a majority under Trump. And now they seem likely to be restored again under Biden, with the Democrats holding the majority of FCC commissioner spots.

Proponents of net neutrality say restoring it means a fair and more equitable Internet, wherein providers can’t create so-called pay-to-play lanes. Opponents say such regulations may stifle innovation.

The full announcement of the vote can be found via the FCC. (Zack Quaintance)


In other federal digital equity news, the Bureau of Land Management is updating broadband infrastructure development regulations for public lands.

The bureau’s final rule on the matter aims to make its application review process more consistent for communications facilities on federal land. It also allows project applications to be submitted electronically and requires the agency to make a decision on applications within 270 days. Finally, the rule also addresses wildfire risks related to power lines on managed public lands.

“By making it easier for service providers to put communications infrastructure on public lands, [the Bureau of Land Management] is helping to ensure communities across America are connected,” said Director Tracy Stone-Manning in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)


The NTIA continues to accept states’ digital equity plans. Last week, 23 states had their digital equity plans accepted. As of today, 35 states and Washington, D.C., have now had their plans accepted.

Since last week, NTIA has accepted the plans of Arizona, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C.

All 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted plans to NTIA; plans will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis. More information about which states have had their plans accepted can be found on the Internet for All website. (Julia Edinger)


In other state news, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed House Bill 193, which aims to raise Internet speeds in public schools, primarily in rural Alaska.

“While this bill is not perfect and there is additional need for more work on the affordability of broadband in Alaska, this is a step in the right direction,” said Dunleavy in a Facebook post.

The legislation essentially increases the amount of funding schools are eligible to receive to ensure they can have access to high-speed broadband services. As Dunleavy said on social media, the timelines for applications for schools to secure federal matching funds made it important to expedite the passage of this legislation. (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.