The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is seeking comment on the structure of $1.44 billion in funding for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and $1.25 billion for the Competitive Digital Equity Program.
The two programs and the nearly $2.7 billion in funding are part of the Internet for All initiative. The NTIA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, seeks to promote the adoption and meaningful use of the Internet to several population groups, including low-income households, veterans, the aging, racial and ethnic minorities and those who live in rural areas.
The request for comments was issued by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. The programs are funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law).
The State Digital Equity Capacity Grant program aims to fund states’ and territories’ digital equity plans. These plans identify barriers to achieving full participation in the digital economy and strategies to overcome those barriers. The Competitive Digital Equity Program funds schools, libraries, nonprofits and others that offer digital inclusion activities and promote Internet adoption. NTIA will establish the Competitive Digital Equity Program after it begins awarding funds from the State Capacity Grant Program.
The request for comment will be available on regulations.gov. Comments are due 60 days from the request’s publication in the Federal Register.
“Connecting homes and businesses with access to affordable, high-speed Internet service is the first step in delivering Internet for All. Closing the digital divide means also equipping everyone in America with the devices and digital skills they need to thrive online,” Alan Davidson, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, said in a press release. “For years, organizations around the country have been doing this important work in their communities. We seek their expertise to make our Digital Equity programs a success.”
The State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program was given a budget of $60 million for planning grants for individual states. The digital equity grant funding was budged at $240 million last year and for $300 million for each year between 2023 and 2026. The Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program has a budget of $1.25 billion to be distributed over five years.