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What’s New in Digital Equity: The Affordable Connectivity Program Dashboard

Plus, funding for broadband continues to make its way from the federal government through the states, the Federal Communications Commission has announced even more broadband support, and more.

A screenshot of the Affordable Connectivity Program Dashboard showing a number of graphs and statistics in orange and white on a black background.
The new Affordable Connectivity Program Dashboard from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
(Institute for Local Self-Reliance)
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 Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has launched a new and very comprehensive dashboard centered on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which is a federal program aimed at helping low-income households afford high-speed Internet connections, in large part by offering service for $30 per month.

The dashboard is live now, and the ILSR built it out as part of its Community Broadband Networks Initiative. The dashboard is interactive, and it tells the story of the ACP, essentially, doing so by conveying information such as how many Americans have signed up for the program, how much funding remains, and where the money is being spent, down to the national, state and ZIP code levels.

Currently, all of those numbers are so high they are almost hard to wrap one’s head around. Consider, for example, that as the visualization conveys, the fund has $12.6 billion remaining, and that the program is currently doling out $411 million each month to help Americans have high-speed Internet connections.

In addition, visitors can see which cities have the highest enrollment numbers among their residents. Outreach has been a major way that state and local governments have and continue to support the ACP, letting their residents know the program exists, assuaging any concerns they may have about security, and even helping with the logistics of signing up. As of the dashboard’s launch, cities with the highest percentages of enrollees in descending order are Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Columbus, San Diego, New York City, and Washington, D.C., which is tied for 10th with San Antonio.

In a press release from the ILSR announcing the dashboard’s creation, Community Broadband Networks Senior Researcher Ry Marcattillo-McCracken said, “Although the ACP is a short-term solution to a long-term challenge, it is a vital program for Americans unable to afford basic home Internet service where it’s available now. However, only a relatively small percentage of eligible households have enrolled in the program.”

As the dashboard notes in relatively large text at the top, 13 of 37 million eligible American households have currently signed up for this program, which is 36.5 percent.

Check out the dashboard now via the ILSR’s site. (Zack Quaintance)


Funds continue to make their way from the federal government down through states to broadband and digital equity work at the community level, with this week bringing several state-level announcements about the flow of the money.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of this week’s news was that Louisiana became the first state to get its Internet for All planning grant money, netting $2.9 million. As we reported in this space in August, all 50 states and every U.S. territory submitted applications for these planning grants, which may include as much as $5 million per request. What this means is that while Louisiana was the first to get its money, it certainly will not be the last. The money comes via the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which is part of this year’s federal Infrastructure Law. Money from Louisiana’s planning grant will go toward identifying underserved locations, conducting outreach, training employees of the broadband program, mapping and more.

Along with this news, Louisiana also announced that it was getting nearly $950,000 from the money the Infrastructure Law also allocates toward digital equity. That money will go toward developing a statewide digital equity plan, hiring a digital equity/inclusion specialist to execute the plan, fostering partnerships with the state’s higher education institutions and working with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

In North Carolina, the state allocated $206 million toward expanding broadband access through its own Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants, noting that to date that program has doled out $260 million toward better Internet there, with more grants to be announced in the fall. The state estimates that this week’s grants will help connect as many as 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses. Much of the funding is going to private companies that plan to build out new infrastructure.

In other broadband infrastructure news, Connecticut announced that it now has federal approval to use $42.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to launch a program that will build infrastructure to help connect more of its unserved and underserved residents to high-speed Internet. Dubbed the Connecticut Broadband Infrastructure Program, it is expected to launch in early 2023, with an initial target of expanding or improving access for more than 10,000 households and businesses there.

In Idaho, meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it is awarding a $4.5 million grant from CARES Act recovery funds to boost Internet connectivity in central Idaho. Specifically, the money will support the construction of a 95-mile fiber-optic cable in the state between Moscow and Grangeville. This grant will be matched with $1.1 million in local funds, too.

Finally, Alabama allocated $26.6 million to broadband projects, largely channeling money through its own Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund to companies like Comcast, Spectrum and others. (Zack Quaintance)


Two recent announcements from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mark continued federal investment in digital equity, amounting to a total of over $800 million for broadband and digital services.

First, on Aug. 24, the FCC announced nearly $42 million in Emergency Connectivity Program funding to provide digital services for students through schools and libraries. Since its creation last year, the program has seen a commitment of over $5.7 billion. This latest commitment will serve about 100,000 students.

In addition, the FCC announced nearly $800 million in funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. This funding will support six providers in deploying broadband to approximately 350,000 locations in 19 states. This program has provided over $6 billion to support deployment in 47 states.

Additional information about these investments can be found on the FCC’s website. (Julia Edinger)


In other federal funding news, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has approved five additional states — Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Arkansas — under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF). The CPF provides $10 billion for eligible governments to carry out critical capital projects that enable work, education and health monitoring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The states approved today are set to receive approximately $408 million, connecting over 90,000 homes. These plans will support broadband infrastructure that offers high-speed connection, prioritizing those in rural and remote areas based on critical need. The first two rounds of state awards were announced in June and July, and the Treasury will continue approving state and tribal plans moving forward. (Julia Edinger)


In last week’s column, we told you about how the U.S. Digital Response (USDR) had announced a new focus on broadband and digital equity. In follow-up news this week, the USDR is also searching for a new CEO.

Interim USDR CEO Jessica Cole is preparing to step down in December, and in preparation for that, a search for her replacement will be held by the USDR board of directors, coordinating closely with the group’s executive team. USDR is also working with the search firm On-Ramps. Cole plans to stay on with USDR in an advisory capacity in order to continue to support the new leadership.

In other USDR leadership news, the group also announced that Jennifer Pahlka — founder of Code for America — will be joining its board of directors in order to help support and guide the organization’s next phase. (Zack Quaintance)


The federal broadband funding news continues. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded over $150 million in funding through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program to help connect tribal communities in the nation.

First, through a Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program grant, NTIA has awarded $18.9 million to the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. This investment is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All initiative. This grant will fund deployment, use and adoption projects to improve high-speed Internet connectivity. It’s part of a greater $500 million investment for tribal applicants this month.

Second, in another investment through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, NTIA has announced over $143 million will be directed to tribes in two states. These awards will support deployment projects for the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council and Yurok Telecommunications Corp. in California and the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington.

In total, the NTIA has invested over $601 million in funding through the program, totaling 63 awards. More information can be found on the Internet for All website. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.