Hawaii Passes Digital Equity Bills | #education | #technology | #training


While federal legislation set the stage for digital equity advancement with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, states are also taking legislative action to improve digital access in an equitable way while broadband expansion projects continue.

Last week, the state of Hawaii took such action, as Gov. David Ige signed four bills into law focused on digital equity.

“We are committed to addressing the digital divide for all Hawai‘i residents, and these bills will bring us another step closer towards an inclusive digital community, where all ‘ohana, keiki and kūpuna have the tools needed to thrive in today’s digital world,” said Ige in the announcement.

  • SB 2076 establishes the convening of a Broadband Working Group by the University of Hawai’i and the Hawai’i Broadband and Digital Equity Office. The working group will determine the governance structure to be used for operating and overseeing broadband assets.
  • SB 2214 establishes a digital literacy program to improve digital literacy through programmatic activities. The program will be managed by the Board of Education through the state librarian.
  • SB 2184 establishes a digital learning center within the Department of Education to help strengthen digital literacy for students. This legislation also appropriates funds to staff the center.
  • SB 2479 will require that all public and state low-income housing projects built or reconstructed after Jan. 1, 2023 must include the necessary broadband infrastructure that enables tenants to access service. (Julia Edinger)

FCC ANNOUNCES $159M IN NEW EMERGENCY CONNECTIVITY FUNDING

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced $159 million in new emergency connectivity funding, which goes to help schools and libraries, the commission has announced.

The funding will go to help institutions that reach more than 300,000 students across the country in states including Alabama, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. The funding is going to applications from all three rounds of the program’s application window so far, with $2 million going to 15 schools and four libraries in the first two application windows, as well as $157 million in the third window for more than 350 schools, 50 libraries, and four consortia.

To date, the total funding from this program that has gone out is almost $5.3 billion. Interested parties can learn more about the Emergency Connectivity Fund program on the FCC’s website. (Zack Quaintance)

FCC OPENS INAUGURAL BROADBAND DATA COLLECTION FILING WINDOW

In other FCC news, the commission has opened its inaugural broadband data collection filing window, it announced.

Broadband service providers may now start to file information about where they offer mass-market Internet service. The deadline for these filings is Sept. 1. In addition, agencies at the state, local, and tribal levels of government can submit the mapping data that they’ve collected in their jurisdictions.

This is all part of the federal government’s ongoing work to improve its data about broadband availability speeds, which has long been criticized by many in the government space. This information specifically aims to update the FCC’s broadband mapping work.

“The FCC is in the process of updating its current broadband maps with more detailed and precise information on the availability of fixed and mobile broadband services,” the commission writes on its data page. “The Broadband Data Collection (BDC) program will give the FCC, industry, state, local and tribal government entities, and consumers the tools they need to improve the accuracy of existing maps.” (Zack Quaintance)

ADVANCE COLORADO BROADBAND GRANT PROGRAM LAUNCHES

This week, the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) launched Advance Colorado Broadband, a grant program that will support broadband expansion in the state. The program is slated to deploy over $500 million from federal programs to infrastructure projects.

“The Advance Colorado Broadband grant program will develop infrastructure to support our residents now and well into the future,” said CBO Executive Director Brandy Reitter in the announcement.

Funding for the program will come from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Additional funding is expected to be available in 2024. Broadband partners interested in applying for these grants must submit a letter of intent by July 18. (Julia Edinger)

NEW YORK RELEASES NEW BROADBAND PROGRAM AUDIT

New York has released a new audit of its broadband program, which was first created back in 2015, the state announced. The audit spans from January 2016 to November 2021, and returned both a set of key findings as well as a set of recommendations.

Among the findings were that the Empire State Development Broadband Program did a good job monitoring its progress, yet it fell short of reaching its goal of total state broadband availability.

Some of the other findings were more specific than that. For example, while the program connected 78,690 of 255,994 housing units — totaling 31 percent — using satellite Internet technology, the maximum download speed of 25 megabits per second falls a bit short of what today’s Internet users need to be effective.

In terms of recommendations, the audit suggests that the state work closely with Internet service providers to complete any outstanding projects as soon as possible. In addition, the state should base its future projects on more reliable and accurate broadband availability data while using tech that provides reliable high-speed Internet.

Interested parties can find the full audit online. (Zack Quaintance)

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has revealed the grantees selected in its sixth annual Community Challenge.

This challenge aims to distribute about $3.4 million in grants to fund 260 projects that will help communities make improvements ranging from digital access and housing to equity and inclusion and more with the aim of supporting residents.

While not all of these projects are technology-related, many will use technology to impact communities. For example, projects in Ansonville, N.C., and Jersey City, N.J., will connect seniors with Internet-enabled devices as well as training to help participants learn how to use them. In Maricopa County, Ariz., the local Area Agency on Aging’s resource directory will be made into an online database to serve Maricopa and neighboring counties.

All told, 260 projects were selected, with grantees in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. More information about the grantees can be found on AARP’s website. (Julia Edinger)





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