Infrastructure Bill Includes Billions in Digital Inclusion Funding
Today the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2021 passed in the House, meaning the biggest federal investment ever in digital equity.
“This moment is unprecedented,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “Not only is the funding an incredible down payment on digital equity, it is an acknowledgment of two decades of grassroots efforts to bridge the digital divide. NDIA and our community will make the most of this moment.”
The following digital inclusion elements are included in the new Infrastructure Act:
- Digital Equity Act: $2.75 billion over 5 years
- Broadband Grants for States, DC, Puerto Rico & Territories: $42.5 billion
- Broadband Benefit: $14.2 billion
- Tribal Connectivity Program: $2 billion
- Middle Mile Connectivity: $1 billion
- “Digital Discrimination” by internet service providers is prohibited
- Clear labeling of consumer broadband service offerings and prices
National Digital Inclusion Alliance was a major initiator and supporter of the Digital Equity Act, with the organization’s own definitions of “digital inclusion” and “digital equity” setting the standards in the act.
Major influencers in the NDIA community were also integral in advocating for the legislation, which was first introduced in 2019 by Senator Patty Murray (WA).
“At a critical time of need and inequity, this is a historic jump forward from the first steps we took three years ago with Senator Murray’s office,” said David Keyes, a Washington state leader in digital inclusion and a 2019 NDIA Digital Equity Champion. “Together, we framed how a Digital Equity Act could help our communities serve those in need – in Seattle, across Washington State, and across the country.”
Ohio Senator Rob Portman and Maine Senator Angus King also sponsored the initial bill, giving this digital equity legislation the support it needed.
“Digital equity is fundamental to accelerating growth and prosperity. We appreciate the bipartisan recognition and support, led by the Biden administration and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), for this initiative,” said Baiju R. Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
“The pandemic has shown how real the digital divide is in our great State, and how important it is to ensure that every home has a robust broadband connection,” said Susan Corbett, commenting on support from US Senator Angus King (I-Maine). “The historic passing of the Digital Equity Act will advance digital equity and inclusion by increasing access to broadband, computers and devices, and expanding digital literacy training for every person in Maine and the nation.”
About National Digital Inclusion Alliance: NDIA advances digital equity by supporting community programs and equipping policymakers to act. Working collaboratively with digital inclusion practitioners, NDIA advocates for broadband access, tech devices, digital skills training, and tech support.