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What’s New in Digital Equity: NTIA Reports on Minority Access

Plus, the USDA is providing $25 million for rural broadband; Pennsylvania offers $20 million worth of devices; Raleigh, N.C., gets a state grant; 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:


The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made broadband-related news in several areas during the last week.

First, it released the 2023 Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives Annual Report. The Consolidated Appropriations Act requires the NTIA to create and submit this report to Congress every year. It outlines the work of NTIA’s Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives.

The report is broken into three parts: Expanding Access to Broadband, Barriers to Broadband Access, and Looking Ahead. It highlights NTIA’s work to address the digital divide that exists in historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The report also highlights the 2023 Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which announced all awards by March 2023. In its first year, the program delivered $268 million to 93 institutions in 36 states and territories. Earlier this year, a separate report examined the program’s impact.

The new NTIA report aims to establish a foundation on which future reports can be built, by providing a metrics framework and detailing lessons learned.

In other NTIA news, several entities have seen their digital equity plans accepted: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All 50 states had their digital equity plans accepted by April. This week’s announcement marks the acceptance of all U.S. territories’ digital equity plans. Following the acceptance of digital equity plans, entities' initial proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis; this process has already begun.

Lastly, an NTIA-funded project to build a 645-mile fiber network that will help connect rural Nevada communities to Internet service has broken ground. Zayo will build the network, including 23 access points. It’s part of the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program.


In other federal news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making $25 million available through the Broadband Technical Assistance Program to help expand access to high-speed Internet in rural communities. The application period is now open.

Applications can be submitted under two categories: the Technical Assistance Providers category, and the Technical Assistance Recipients category.

This funding, the second round through this program, is made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This program will support feasibility studies, network designs, hiring efforts and application development. It will help organizations that receive or deliver broadband technical assistance and training.

Applications must be submitted by Aug. 20. More information can be found in the Federal Register.


At the state level, the application period is open for Pennsylvania’s Digital Connectivity Technology Program, now through Aug. 19. Through this program, the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority will purchase and distribute $20 million in laptops to eligible institutions, including libraries, municipalities and workforce training organizations. An important piece of this program is digital skills training, which grant recipients are required to provide.

The Digital Connectivity Technology Program will provide libraries and other community institutions with the technology required to give Pennsylvanians the Internet access they need to have better health, education and economic outcomes,” said Executive Director Brandon Carson in the announcement.

Application review will begin Aug. 20, with grant awards slated to be announced in November. Projects should begin in 2025.


In other state news, Alabama has awarded a grant of nearly $53.5 million to expand Internet service in the state. It went to the Alabama Fiber Network, a coalition of electric cooperatives that will help develop the second phase of the state’s middle-mile network deployment.

“This project will add approximately 1,095 miles of high-speed middle-mile broadband for our communities, and it will connect approximately 120 community anchors … to this service,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the announcement.

The program will be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs through its Alabama Digital Expansion Division, and is expected to impact 24 counties in the state.


At the local level, the city of Raleigh, N.C., will be using a $300,000 Digital Equity Grant from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) to support the city’s Digital Inclusion Programming, which includes the Digital Ambassador Program; and Learn and Earn initiatives.

The city’s Digital Inclusion Unit has already enhanced digital equity through various initiatives, distributing more than 1,000 computers and helping more than 3,800 residents complete digital literacy training.

The latest grant will help the city deliver on the digital equity goals in its strategic plan, including expanding digital access to more residents. Find more information about the grant on NCDIT’s website.
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.