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What's New In Digital Equity: White House Shares Internet Deployment Timeline

Plus, a new report details how to make broadband a priority in affordable rental housing development projects, the FCC is partnering with the Department of Veterans to help those who served get connected, and more.

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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:


This morning, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a Nov. 18 release date for the long-awaited broadband maps, meeting the FCC chair’s assured timeline. Historically, FCC maps were based on data from the census block level rather than the location level, which created the need for more accurate, granular maps. This version, a pre-production draft, marks the first release of the map that is required by the Broadband DATA Act.

This map’s data was gathered from providers during the initial Broadband Data Collection filing window, so it will show location-level information on broadband availability as of June 30, 2022. Providers’ availability data has been matched to location information from the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, a common data set of U.S. locations where broadband service is used or can be installed.

This draft marks the beginning of an iterative process to create a map that accurately reflects service availability. The FCC will accept bulk challenges from state and tribal governments and other entities, as well as disputes from individuals. The idea is that the map will be continually improved through these challenges. For example, the state of New York recently submitted information through the Broadband Data Collection challenge process.

Following the FCC announcement this morning, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) set an expected date of June 30, 2023, for sharing Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment allocation levels to eligible entities.

“The FCC’s upcoming challenge process is one of the best chances to ensure that we have accurate maps guiding us as we allocate major Internet for All awards in 2023,” said Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information in the NTIA announcement, urging states and communities to participate in the process.

To help state broadband officials identify issues and prepare challenges, NTIA will be offering regular engagement and technical assistants. In addition, NTIA will be offering informational webinars for the public to increase participation through the next eight weeks, a period that Davidson describes as “critical” to federal connection efforts. (Julia Edinger)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans to help veterans get connected to the Internet.

The way the two organizations hope to accomplish this is by helping veterans sign up for the Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs. Through this new partnership, the two agencies will enable automatic eligibility verification for any veterans who are receiving pension benefits. Essentially, what this means is that any veteran with a pension will also be automatically verified and subsequently informed that they are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. They will not need to submit any additional information.

Both of these programs are intended to make high-speed Internet connections more affordable. The Lifeline Program offers a monthly discount of as much as $9.25 for Internet, as well as up to $34.25 for qualifying households on tribal lands. The Affordable Connectivity Program gives a separate monthly discount of as much as $30 monthly for Internet service, with $75 monthly for households on qualifying tribal lands.

To date, the Affordable Connectivity Program has served roughly 15 million people. (Zack Quaintance)


Media and technology company Comcast has announced an investment of over $500,000 to support digital inclusion. The funding will be distributed in grants to 17 organizations to support laptop distribution, digital literacy training and digital navigator programs throughout the greater Boston region.

The investment is part of Project UP, the company’s $1 billion pledge to advance digital equity. Three of the recipient organizations — Tech Goes Home, Central Boston Elder Services and One Bead — will be using the funds to create digital navigators to help train community members in digital literacy. The digital navigator model is one that has been commonly adopted in digital inclusion training. The 14 other nonprofits will be using the grants in various ways to support digital equity efforts. (Julia Edinger)


A new article from The Pew Charitable Trusts details how officials can work to make broadband a priority as they play roles in developing affordable rental housing.

At the crux of the advice are incentives in federal low-income housing tax credits, specifically as they might be applied to housing units that are not funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The incentives, the article notes, actually date all the way back to 1986 and the launch of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

At the time the credit was created, there was no intention for it to apply to broadband, for obvious reasons, but there is some overlap now in the way eligibility is determined. The article goes into depth about this, and it can be read in full via The Pew Charitable Trusts website. (Zack Quaintance)


Last week, state and local leaders announced the completion of an $8.3 million broadband expansion in Hampton County, S.C., which connects over 2,000 homes and businesses to high-speed Internet. The expansion is made possible through a partnership between Comcast and the state, and other communities are set to benefit from this partnership in the future. This work is also a part of Comcast’s Project UP initiative.

“Across South Carolina, public and private funds are working together to make high-speed Internet both accessible and affordable for all,” said U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn in the announcement.

Comcast is also making Affordable Connectivity Program credits available to qualifying residents. (Julia Edinger)


The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed updates to its regulations for the construction and operation of broadband infrastructure on public lands, and these updates are aimed at boosting accessibility.

The proposed rule changes were published this week, which means a public comment period will now run through Jan 6. The rule changes are aimed squarely at making it easier for broadband providers to build new infrastructure on public lands. In addition, the changes have a component that would address the risks to wildlife to and from power lines in the spaces overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Finally, part of this is also a proposed update to the bureau's fee schedule and processing for rights-of-way authorizations, as well as its requirements for rights-of-way maintenance plans.

This may all seem dry, but approval and rights-of-way maintenance can be crucial for effective connectivity. To put the scope of the lands involved here into context, it's important to note that the Bureau of Land Management has roughly 1,500 communications sites on the lands it manages, many of which are towers for cell and wireless services. The bureau also manages 5,000 miles of energy corridors for power transmission, and that infrastructure is compatible with expanding high-speed Internet access through fiber-optic lines.

Interested parties who want to see the exact nature of the rule changes can visit and search "RIN 1004-AE60." (Zack Quaintance)


A new publication from the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society underlines the role of community leaders and philanthropy in helping achieve digital equity. The argument is that digital inclusion starts at a local level: Because each community has unique characteristics and challenges, community plans can help guide planning for states, territories and tribes.

The publication also highlights the power of philanthropies, arguing that although federal funding is available, strategic partnerships can strengthen the capacity of state broadband offices. In addition to financial support, philanthropic organizations can leverage their connections to a network of stakeholders to establish coalitions — plus, these organizations often have a regional, or even national, impact.

The guidebook, Pathways to Digital Equity: How Communities Can Reach Their Broadband Goals — and How Philanthropy Can Help, offers examples of this work and can serve as a resource for planning and advancing toward digital equity. (Julia Edinger)
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.