Government Relations Update April 2019
Senate Democrats Introduce Legislation to Create New “Digital Equity” Grant Programs
On April 11, 2019, a group of Senate Democrats led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Digital Equity Act (S. 1167). The bill would authorize the creation of two new grant programs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) aimed at providing the necessary resources for planning, training, and support for individuals and communities to ensure that they can take full advantage of reliable broadband resources as they become available.
The first program would provide $120 million for states to create comprehensive plans to ensure that their residents have the resources to make use of broadband services as they are adopted. These plans would include assessments of barriers to digital equity such as online accessibility of public resources and services, digital literacy, and public awareness of best practices for securing online privacy and data security. Additionally, state plans would need to outline objectives for collaborating with key stakeholders, including community anchor institutions, local education agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
The second program would provide an additional $120 million to support a competitive grant program for projects undertaken by individuals and organizations to “achieve digital equity, promote digital inclusion activities, and spur greater adoption of broadband among covered populations.” Funds could be used for such purposes as making equipment, networking capability, and digital network technology available for broadband services at low or no cost, as well as constructing, upgrading, or operating new or existing public access computing centers through community anchor institutions.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for consideration.