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IIJA Broadband Program Pre-NOFO Technical Assistance Webinar 4: Digital Equity and Inclusion

On April 27, staff from NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) and Office of Policy Analysis and Development (OPAD) held a fourth technical assistance webinar prior to the release of the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Broadband Infrastructure Law (BIL) broadband programs. On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law into law, which includes a significant investment of $65 billion to help close the digital divide and ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high speed, and affordable Internet. 

Moderated by Karen Archer Perry, Senior Policy Analyst in OICG members of the OICG and OPAD team presented on digital equity and inclusion, including activities and programs that incorporate equitable, inclusive approaches to enable more Americans to fully use high-speed Internet in communities throughout the United States. NTIA Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson provided a welcome and opening remarks for the webinar. Panelists included: 

  • Angela Thi Bennett, Director of Digital Equity Programs, OICG, NTIA 
  • Rafi Goldberg, Telecommunications Policy Specialist, OPAD, NTIA 

Following Davidson’s introduction, Goldberg provided an overview on the Digital Equity Act, the role of equity and inclusion in supporting all BIL broadband programs, definitions of digital equity and inclusion, the importance of digital equity, and insights on the role digital equity serves in closing the digital divide. 

Bennett presented an overview of three key activities to drive equity and inclusion across BIL programs. This includes creating an inclusive stakeholder engagement plan, developing knowledge and capabilities to execute digital equity plans, and considering digital inclusion programs. 

Digital inclusion programs include: 

  • Digital skills training 
  • Affordability programs 
  • Digital equity ecosystem mapping 
  • Digital support programs (e.g., Digital Navigation) 
  • Activities supporting digital participation in society 

Goldberg presented program models, showcasing effective approaches to execute digital equity plans and promote digital inclusion. These include setting up digital skills training, implementing adoption-side programs such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program, utilizing asset mapping of digital equity ecosystems, and understanding how to use digital navigators. Lastly, Goldberg concluded it is key to remember these programs all aim to promote full digital participation in society. Embedding digital equity at the center of local and state broadband programs and working collaboratively is essential to successfully solving the digital divide. 

During the question-and-answer component of the webinar, panelists answered questions regarding a variety of programmatic, policy, planning, and technical topics. 

NTIA’s pre-NOFO technical assistance webinars are designed to help prospective applicants understand NTIA’s IIJA broadband grant programs. To view video recording, transcript, and presentation materials for our overview on digital equity and inclusion, please visit its past events page. Please register for the next scheduled Pre-NOFO Technical Assistance webinar Supply Chains and Workforce Development on May 11.