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What’s New in Digital Equity: The Economic Impact of Broadband

Plus, the Net Inclusion 2023 event brought together digital equity stakeholders; the final awards were announced for the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program; and Missouri launched a survey to guide broadband efforts.

A digital rendering of points of Internet connection over a city skyline at night.
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 ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard, announced this week by the U.S. Census Bureau in partnership with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), aims to show how broadband infrastructure expansion can impact local economies.

As funding has continually been flowing for broadband, states are already putting these funds to use; meanwhile, concerns have been raised regarding how this will impact smaller entities like cities.

The new dashboard includes 21 maps displaying various broadband access measures. In addition, the maps portray economic characteristics that can be influenced by increased access to broadband, such as employment, poverty level, home values, population changes, educational attainment and gross domestic product. Maps include statistics on U.S. states and counties.
Screenshot of The ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard features a map of US with various shades of blue to depict current broadband access.
Screenshot of The ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard
The U.S. Census Bureau and NTIA expect to update the dashboard annually, including the interactive dashboard and supplemental data files with each update. And the rest of these updates to allow the users to gain an understanding of the economic context in locations where broadband access efforts are in progress.

The dashboard delivers on a requirement outlined in the ACCESS BROADBAND Act of 2021, requiring NTIA to report to Congress annually of economic impacts of federal broadband funds for local communities.

The dashboard is powered by Esri technology, and data is available to be downloaded for those who want to develop their own visualizations or explore it in other ways.


On the theme of federal broadband funding, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo made an appearance at Net Inclusion this week, underlining that the federal government needs support to effectively bridge the digital divide. The input of digital inclusion practitioners, such as those who attended the event in record numbers this year and other community leaders, will be key.

“We have money, but we don’t have all the great ideas,” Raimondo said at the event. “We need to hear from you what it’s going to take in order to make sure we invest the money alongside every community in a way that’s most effective so nobody’s left behind.”

In a related announcement, she stated that the Commerce Department was opening a request for comment on two pieces of the Digital Equity Act, specifically those related to grants. Comments can be made to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.


In another federal funding news, all funding from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC) has been awarded as of this week. The program was first announced in August 2021, and grants were first distributed in July 2022.

In the final round of funding, $175 million was awarded to 61 colleges and universities in 29 states and four territories. In total, the funding from this grant program has been awarded to 93 universities: 43 historically Black colleges and universities, 24 Hispanic-serving institutions, 21 minority-serving institutions, and five tribal colleges and universities.

The funding will contribute to community technology hubs, classroom technology and digital literacy education. More information about the awardees can be found on NTIA’s website.


Raimondo’s appearance was not the only news to come out of Net Inclusion. $15 million has been awarded to the state of Kansas for digital equity work, and according to a U.S. Treasury Department official, it is the first of multiple awards expected to be made soon.

The money comes from the Capital Projects Fund, which is part of the American Rescue Plan. Notably, the money awarded for Kansas is specifically intended to target digital equity, rather than broadband infrastructure.

There is still time for other states to apply for money from the same fund; coordination with governors’ offices can help states obtain this money.


The Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Office of Broadband Development and the University of Missouri Extension have partnered to conduct a brief online survey to guide the state’s Internet expansion efforts. The anonymous survey is open for submissions now.

“As we continue making historic investments in Missouri’s broadband infrastructure, we encourage public feedback to inform our efforts,” said BJ Tanksley, director of the Office of Broadband Development in an announcement.

The survey will gather information about households’ current Internet use including devices, applications and barriers to use.
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.