We celebrate the announcement of the Digital Equity Act because it invests in local solutions. During the pandemic, we saw more local governments, community foundations, and school districts figuring out ways to cover the cost of internet service and purchase computers while also providing technical support and digital skills training. The solutions were local. Digital equity solutions in the U.S. have always been local. On the one hand, this is useful because trusted community relationships are essential to effective digital inclusion work. On the other hand, financial support of local digital inclusion work has been sorely lacking, and now is the time to scale.
Originally introduced in April 2019 by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (WA), and reintroduced in 2021 the Digital Equity Act proposes to authorize more than $1 billion in Federal grant funding over the next five years to support digital inclusion programs throughout U.S. states and territories.
The Senate bill has been cosponsored by Senator Portman (OH).
The Digital Equity Act would create two major Federal grant programs, operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to promote digital equity nationwide. The proposed funding for each program is $125 million per year for five years — a total of up to $1.25 billion.
One program would be carried out through state governments, with funding allocated by formula, and would incorporate state-by-state digital equity planning followed by implementation grants to qualifying programs.
The other would be an annual national competitive grant program, run by the NTIA, to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest anywhere in the U.S.
The Digital Equity Act references definitions of “Digital Inclusion” and “Digital Equity” developed by NDIA.