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What's New in Digital Equity: Supporting the ACP as It Winds Down

Plus, federal agencies applaud preservation reviews for broadband infrastructure, a statewide survey shows a narrowing of the digital divide in California, and more.

An internet concept image showing a small house against a digital backdrop.
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:


As stakeholders watch for action on the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which would provide $7 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and enable it to continue beyond the expected end date of April 2024, steps are being taken to wind down the program in case the legislation is not passed.

On Friday, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) underlined the importance of advocating for the needs of ACP outreach grantees in a blog post. On Jan. 11, NDIA submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting two things. First, the organization requested the allowance for grantees to redirect their funded work toward program wind-down activities like raising awareness. Second, the organization requested that the FCC work with grantees to help facilitate the wind-down activities to minimize negative impacts to those who rely on the program subsidy.

The FCC and grantees risk losing the trust of those they enrolled in the program unless they can reach impacted households in a timely manner; this could impact the success of future broadband benefit programs, the blog noted.

As wind-down efforts for the program begin, stakeholders continue to hold out hope for the program’s continuation. This week, a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 174 mayors was sent to Congress to encourage the urgent passage of legislation that will extend ACP funding.

The letter underlines that the program is essential to more than 23 million families that rely on access to high-speed, affordable Internet.

The letter is the latest in a series of calls from stakeholders for Congress to take action, including those from the Biden-Harris administration, a coalition of governors, a group of senators and a variety of other organizations. (Julia Edinger)


FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also submitted a letter to members of Congress regarding the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The letter was in response to a letter from Congress members back in December, discussing a need to wind down the ACP if Congress does not appropriate funding for the program.

In the letter, Rosenworcel emphasizes the vast impact the ACP has had and continues to have, writing, "The ACP is the largest and most successful broadband affordability program in our nation's history. More than 22 million households across rural, suburban and urban America rely on the ACP to pay for high-speed Internet service they need for school, work, health care and more.

Interested parties can read both letters in full via the FCC's website. (Zack Quaintance)


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and ACA Connects submitted joint comments in support of a proposal to streamline historic preservation review processes; the goal is to give communications providers more flexibility in the deployment of federally funded broadband infrastructure projects.

The submitted comments state that telecommunications undertakings typically don’t have adverse effects to historic properties. It also emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of the federal funding opportunity that some experts have deemed once in a lifetime.

“NTCA appreciates [the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation]’s efforts to strike this balance and streamline permitting processes so that broadband providers can more efficiently connect rural communities,” said NTCA Executive Vice President Mike Romano in the announcement. (Julia Edinger)


A new statewide survey has found that California is making progress toward closing its digital divide.

The survey — which was conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California and the California Emerging Technology Fund — found that 91 percent of households in California now have broadband. That number is largely consistent with a similar survey from 2021, but progress was made in another area — the percentage of underconnected households dropped from 6 to 3 percent, with underconnected meaning the households only access the Internet through a smartphone.

While that is good news, the survey also found that challenges remain for connecting low-income families with K-12 students. In fact, the number of those households with broadband actually dropped from 97 percent in 2021 to 93 percent in 2023, with a possible reason being the expiration of some school-based programs that sponsored Internet access during COVID-19.

“There was significant progress in reducing the number of underconnected households,” said Hernán Galperin, the study’s lead researcher and a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, in a statement. “However, our latest data also point to the sobering reality of the challenges in reaching the most digitally disadvantaged households."

More information about the survey can be found here. (Zack Quaintance)


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released a resource called “How To: Bring More Women Online.” According to the resource, women in low- and middle-income countries are 19 percent less likely than men to use mobile Internet.

The guide aims to help understand and address the gender digital divide around the world, offering Internet service providers and technology companies information to guide a gender-inclusive approach to digital inclusion work. It highlights learnings from the Microsoft Airband pilots offering recommendations to implement gender-inclusive programming.

“Ending the gender digital divide, and also ensuring the digital economy itself is equitable, is absolutely critical to economic and social development, especially in today’s increasingly interconnected world,” the resource quotes USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Jamille Bigio. (Julia Edinger)


Kansas has launched a $4.75 million initiative centered on digital skills training in the state, officials announced.

It's called the Digital Opportunities to Connect Kansas program, and it's aimed at improving digital equity there. The money is set to go toward digital skills development programs, with the maximum single award standing at $250,000. Recipients are required to match the funds to the tune of 5 percent.

More information about this funding, as well as a pathway to apply, can be found here. (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.