NDIA is thrilled to share some of the responses we submitted on Monday, May 1st, in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Digital Equity Act (DEA) Request for Comments. Check out our previous blog post for more background on NTIA’s Request for Comments. You can also view our official filed comments here.
We highlighted six main points in our comments:
1. Meaningful Community Engagement Is Critical
The entire DEA planning and implementation process should be based on meaningful community engagement, collaboration, and partnership. The Administering Entities in states, territories, and DC should already be engaging, collaborating with, and listening to lived experts, partners, and stakeholders frequently, and that engagement should continue throughout implementation.
2. Success Needs to Be Defined by Grantees
The grantees should define success (for both the capacity grants and competitive grants). NTIA should provide support, guidance, technical assistance, tools, and best practices, but they should allow grantees to define what success looks like in their communities and how to get there.
3. Grant Applications Should Be Accessible, User-Friendly, and NTIA-Supported
NTIA should support grantees throughout the grant process by making sure the grant applications and requirements are simple and accessible and the grant application and reporting platform is user-friendly and intuitive. NTIA should also provide opportunities for grantees to gather and learn from each other’s experiences.
4. Encourage Flexibility
The capacity and competitive grants should be flexible, allowing grantees to pivot or adjust approaches and deliverables based on lessons learned.
5. Invest in Trusted Organizations
NTIA should design the program to strike a healthy balance of investing in programs, organizations, and models that are proven effective while also providing space for innovation and expansion of the field.
6. Robust Digital Inclusion Ecosystems Are Essential to Sustainability
Investing in establishing new digital inclusion coalitions and adding capacity to existing ones will support the growth and sustainability of healthy digital inclusion ecosystems throughout the US.
What’s coming next?
NTIA will review the comments and create two Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs), one for the Capacity Grant Program and one for the Competitive Grant Program. At this point, we don’t know when NTIA will publish those NOFOs. However, based on NTIA’s current published timeline, we expect the Capacity grants to be awarded by mid-year 2024 and the Competitive Grants to be deployed in the second half of 2024. This means local organizations should not expect any DEA-related funds – either sub-awarded Capacity Grants from states/DC/territories or Competitive Grant awards – until the second half of 2024 and perhaps even 2025.
As we learn new information about timing and the forthcoming rules of the programs, we will share them with our community.