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What’s New in Digital Equity: The State of Digital Equity Funding

Plus, the Colorado Broadband Deployment Board distributes a historic amount of funding; the New York Digital Inclusion Fund announces five innovation grants; a new program offers broadband support training for communities; and more.

Crowdfunding concept, credit union, paper cut out human figures around stack of money
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:


A new report examines the state of funding — especially philanthropic funding — for digital equity work in the United States.

Dubbed Funding to bridge the digital divide: U.S. philanthropic giving to digital equity causes, the report was released this month by Connect Humanity, with data and analysis by Candid. Noting that roughly 120 million Americans still live without broadband access, the report dives into many different aspects of philanthropic funding for digital equity in this country.

Among the report’s findings are things like the fact that funding for digital equity makes up less than 1 percent of overall giving by large foundations, giving to digital equity causes has largely been stagnant for a decade, recent digital equity funding comes largely in the form of small grants, and the locations of the jurisdictions that receive the most digital equity funding, which are California, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C.

There is, of course, quite a bit of other information in the report as well. Specifically, the report sets out to find answers to a number of questions related to the digital divide, things like how are these grants being awarded, where does this funding go, and how much funding explicitly identifies certain population groups?

What is perhaps of note is that while the report was published this month, many of the data sets inside seem to stop at 2019. As we’ve documented in this space — and across this site — a new focus has emerged on digital inclusion, digital equity and broadband following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people into their homes, subsequently demonstrating why it’s so important for everyone in the country to be connected to reliable Internet. As a result, historic amounts of new funding have flooded into the space.

As a result, the report seems destined to serve as a great sort of before photo once the dust starts to settle a little bit and it becomes clearer how much money was given to digital equity after March 2020, where it went and how effective it ultimately ended up being.

The report does note the surge in governmental support, finding that there remains a large role for philanthropy to play here as well, especially as it pertains to helping connect traditionally underserved communities.

“While the U.S government, EU and others prepare to make their biggest ever investment to expand broadband, without the involvement of philanthropy, these funds are unlikely to get to the communities that need them most,” the report notes. “Philanthropy must leverage the resources it has and engage to support communities that markets have failed. Together we can ensure communities come online, on their terms, with the tools and skills they need to thrive in our digitalizing world.” (Zack Quaintance)


The Colorado Broadband Deployment Board has awarded over $22.8 million in grants to support 15 broadband projects in the state. Ten of these projects will be funded by the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, totaling over $19 million, and five were funded through a state broadband fund called the High-Cost Support Mechanism, totaling over $3.5 million.

“This is just the beginning of our work to connect as many households, businesses and schools as possible so no Coloradan is held back by lack of reliable internet access,” said Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter in the announcement.

Eleven counties are set to benefit from this grant funding. The recipients have two years to complete their projects. (Julia Edinger)


The New York Digital Inclusion Fund has announced five innovation grants aimed at supporting work that will advance digital equity in the state over the next 12 to 24 months.

The fund, which is a partnership between the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and Schmidt Futures, is aimed at advancing innovative partnership models in the digital inclusion space. The five new grantees are getting awards that range from $167,000 to $250,000, individually. As part of the award, the NDIA will provide grantees with guidance, training, tech support and best practices as they carry out their work.

The recipients are Community Access Inc. in New York City; Mission: Ignite in Western New York; OATS from AARP in North County; the Queens Public Library Foundation in New York City; and the STEM Alliance in Long Island.

More information about each of the five projects can be found at (Zack Quaintance)


The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s (ILSR) community broadband networks initiative has announced a new program, the Let’s Get Going Broadband Program (LGGB), to help provide training and information for city staff or other community members who want to advance broadband access.

The program offers local broadband teams the opportunity to participate in an eight-week cohort with other communities. It will involve interactive training webinars, technical assistance and research. The ILSR has been working to advance high-speed Internet access for low-income households through other resources as well, such as the launch of the new Affordable Connectivity Program dashboard.

The LGGB was announced in August alongside the Urban Digital Equity Bootcamp. Both programs aim to help local officials address their unique community broadband needs. (Julia Edinger)


ConnectMT, the state of Montana’s broadband program established by the Department of Administration, is looking to obtain public feedback about state broadband needs to help better understand the gaps and better define goals to guide expansion efforts.

This feedback is being acquired in several ways. First, Montana residents are encouraged to complete the 10-minute Montana Internet Access Household Survey. The survey is open to both community leaders and other individuals that live in Montana.

In addition, Public and Community Leader listening sessions will be taking place Sept. 7-14. These outreach sessions, in addition to online video conferences hosted by the Montana Broadband Survey team, will help the research team get information from the public. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to help the state make informed decisions when awarding up to $266 million for broadband service throughout the state. (Julia Edinger)


Finally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has committed $81 million in new funding through the Emergency Connectivity Program to boosting broadband in the U.S.

Specifically, this new round of FCC funding is estimated to help connect as many as 170,000 students in five states and the District of Columbia. Those states are Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Washington. All the funding for this program is aimed at helping to connect students and libraries, and to date, the FCC reports that $5.8 billion has been distributed as part of the initiative, which was launched last year. (Zack Quaintance)
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.