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What's New in Digital Equity: Pennsylvania Digital Literacy Grant Supports Job Seekers

Plus, Oklahoma has launched a new interactive map to track Internet service in the state, Maine has submitted a new broadband plan to the federal government, and more.

A person working on a laptop with a to-go coffee cup and a mobile phone sitting on the table next to them.
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 Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) has announced more than $685,000 in grant funding through the Digital Literacy and Workforce Development grant program. It aims to support job seekers in the state as they work to improve their digital literacy skills.

Digital skills training has increased nationwide in recent years, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Pennsylvania grant program aims to fill the gaps necessary for job seekers to participate in today’s workforce, as 92 percent of jobs currently require digital skills.

This funding represents the fourth installment of funding through the program, which is intended to help prepare Pennsylvanians for employment in emerging industries with career-ready digital skills training.

The awards announced last week will fund programs in coordination with local workforce development boards, local employers and community organizations. These programs will receive grant funding through July 2024. Most of them will receive grants of $45,000.

Some of the programs receiving funding include the Practical Skills Computer Workshop program led by Project HOME, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Agency Coalition Digital Literacy and Access Project, and numerous programs led by local libraries.

“Pennsylvanians cannot obtain meaningful jobs if they do not have fundamental digital-literacy skills to carry out the tasks necessary to be successful in our workforce,” said L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)


The Oklahoma Broadband Office’s (OBO) new interactive online map, which was announced last week, illustrates the availability of high-speed Internet service across the state.

The map, developed using federal grant funds from the Legislature, aims to offer a way to track progress, especially as states begin deployment of monies from federal broadband funding programs. The state also released a tutorial video to help make the map more accessible.

Users can use the map to search addresses, view unserved, served and underserved locations, distinguish between the different technologies in use in different locations, see reported Internet speeds by location, and view areas receiving upgrades with federal grant funding. Notably, the map provides information and functions that are not available in the Federal Communications Commission maps.

A second version of the Oklahoma map is expected to be released early next year with updated features. (Julia Edinger)


Maine has submitted its five-year broadband action plan to the federal government, making it one of the first to do so, the state announced.

Specifically, the state has submitted its BEAD action plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, following only Delaware so far. The state is working to receive $272 million of the historic amount of federal funds currently available to expand broadband infrastructure and access. Submitting this five-year plan is a required step toward accessing the funds, and within the plan is information about how states plan to use the money, including a digital equity plan as well as subgrant processes.

This submission follows the conclusion of a public comment period about the plan, which closed at the end of June. Currently several other states are within that period or have recently closed it, with that list including Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming. With the Maine and Delaware plans now in, that group of states are the most likely to soon follow suit.

More information about Maine’s broadband plans can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


The city of Bloomington, Ind., has announced the recipients of its 2023 Digital Equity Grants. Thirteen area nonprofit organizations will receive funding to help provide digital resources for residents.

Recipients of this year’s grant funds will receive a total of $50,000 to help them build capacity to address digital equity in numerous ways, including enabling access to broadband services and Internet-enabled devices; expanding the digital skills needed to benefit from Internet access; and working to address community-specific digital equity gaps identified in the city’s strategic plan.

The grant program, which is now in its fourth year, was started as part of Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative. (Julia Edinger)


Meanwhile, the Biden administration has shared more details about where it’s channeling other broadband monies, doing so with a new announcement about $700 million of broadband-related grants headed toward the nation’s rural areas, the federal government has announced.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement. The money will go to recipients spread throughout 22 states and the Marshall Islands. The grants are being made through USDA’s ReConnect Program, which is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

A list of projects that are receiving money through these new grants can be found through the USDA’s announcement page. (Zack Quaintance)


Finally, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has announced a second round of outreach grant program rewards related to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), according to an announcement through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

This is expected to be the final round of funding through this channel, and it totals just over $4.3 million. The ACP is a program aimed at helping those who are eligible for it afford reliable high-speed Internet connections in their homes. This money is slated to go to 12 states and territories where the target funding minimums for the ACP were not met after the first round of outreach funding. Essentially, not enough people have signed up for the program in those states, so this money is going to support more efforts to get them to sign up.

More information about this new round of grants can be found through the FCC. (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.