[NA-Discuss] Digital Equity Act in US

Glenn McKnight mcknight.glenn at gmail.com
Thu Apr 11 19:22:17 UTC 2019

United States Senate

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 11th, 2019
Michael J. Brewer <michael_brewer at murray.senate.gov>(Murray)
*Senator Murray, Senate Democrats Introduce New Legislation to Tackle
Nationwide Digital Equity Gap*

*Led by Senator Murray, Senate Democrats introduced the *Digital Equity Act
of 2019*to help close the digital divide impacting communities across the

*The *Digital Equity Act* builds on recent efforts to increase access to
broadband by prioritizing “digital inclusion”—activities that seek to
provide individuals and communities with the skills, supports, and
technologies necessary to take full advantage of a broadband internet
connection when they have one*

*Legislation creates two new $125M grant programs aimed at
<https://twitter.com/PattyMurray/status/1116385656652095488> and supporting
digital inclusion programs for students, families, and workers*

*Pew Research Center**: “Nearly one-in-five teens can’t always finish their
homework because of the digital divide” – MORE HERE

*Learn more from Senator Murray’s new Medium Post: *“*Why We Need the
Digital Equity Act*” – LINK

*WASHINGTON, D.C. –* Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top
Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP)
Committee, today a group of Senate Democrats introduced new legislation
aimed at closing the growing digital divide in communities across the
country. The *Digital Equity Act of 2019
 creates new federal investments targeted toward a diverse array of
projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”— a
concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the
“condition in which all individuals and communities have the information
technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy
and economy.” The legislation was cosponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono
(D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary
Peters (D-MI), and Jack Reed (D-RI), and a companion bill will also be
introduced in the House of Representatives.

*“For so many of us, having a reliable broadband connection is a given—we
use the internet to pay bills, do our taxes, book travel, do homework, and
much more. We can do it on our own time, in our own homes—even from our
phones. But for far too many individuals and families—including those from
communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income households, and
rural communities—getting online isn’t so easy to do, and I strongly
believe that in 2019, we shouldn’t be a country of haves and have-nots when
it comes to using the internet,” **said* *Senator Murray.** “That’s why I’m
proud to join with my Democratic colleagues to introduce the **Digital
Equity Act**, which will direct significant new federal investments to help
ensure people in our communities have the tools, support, and technologies
necessary to take full advantage of a broadband connection when they have
access to one. Congress can and should help states, counties, tribes, and
others do more to close the growing digital divide, and the **Digital
Equity Act** is a major step in the right direction. It’s the right thing
to do for families, and it’s the right thing to do for our economy to make
sure everyone is reaching their full potential.”*

*“The internet impacts every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from
conducting business to pursuing an education to connecting with friends and
loved ones. Put simply: it is the most important tool for anyone trying to
participate in 21st century life,”* said Senator King. *“And it’s not
enough to simply have access to the internet; you also need to know how to
use it. By making these investments in digital equity and digital
inclusion, we can ensure Americans of all ages and backgrounds are fluent
in the technology that will drive so much of our nation’s future.”*

*“The Internet is a powerful tool that has become instrumental in economic
and social mobility and civic engagement. In 2009, Hawaii capitalized on
funds made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to
expand broadband to schools and public computer centers, making it one of
the most-connected states in the country. But physical infrastructure is
only part of the equation,”* said Senator Hirono. *“The Digital Equity
Act will provide grants for things like digital literacy and digital skills
education to low-income populations and improving the online accessibility
of social services for individuals with disabilities that will allow the
people of Hawaii to make full use of what broadband has to offer. Only then
can they fully participate in our society, democracy, and economy.”*

*“More and more, we rely on the internet to help us participate in our
democracy and take part in the global economy. Expanding access to the
digital world will help combat inequality, increase transparency in our
institutions, and help citizens hold their government accountable. That’s
why I’m pleased to support the Digital Equity Act,”* said Senator

*“As we rely more on technology in our everyday lives, we have to make sure
that every family has access to broadband, regardless of their zip code.
This legislation will help close the digital divide and bring high-speed
internet to communities across the county,”* said Senator Klobuchar.

*“Access to broadband internet service is literally transformative. With
broadband, students can access vast educational resources, families remain
connected, citizens engage their representatives, and businesses reach new
customers,”* said Senator Blumenthal. *“For far too long, the digital
divide has left behind those overlooked and underserved communities that
would benefit most from broadband. Our bill would invest much-needed
resources in our broadband infrastructure – spurring growth and
development, and helping to level the playing field for all Americans.”*

*“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century—it isn’t just nice,
it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for
everyone,” *said Senator Smith. *“This bill represents a positive step
forward in that direction, ensuring that traditionally overlooked
communities are not left behind in our efforts to provide affordable and
reliable internet service to all Minnesotans and other Americans.”*

*“From students completing homework to people of all ages applying online
for jobs, broadband internet plays a crucial role in a community’s growth
and economy. Expanding access to broadband will help create more
opportunity for Marylanders, and will move our state forward on closing the
digital divide. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this
common-sense legislation, and I will continue working to expand economic
opportunity for all,” *said Senator Van Hollen.

According to the Pew Research Center
nearly one in five teenagers in the U.S. say they have been unable to
complete homework assignments due to lack of a reliable internet
connection. The digital divide, also sometimes referred to as the “homework
gap” as it applies to students, exacerbates existing wealth and income gaps
in our communities; subsequently, many people—including those from
communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income households, and
rural communities, overwhelmingly impacted by the digital skills gap—are at
risk of being left behind in an increasingly technology-driven world,
absent intervention. To that end, the *Digital Equity Act of 2019* strengthens
federal support for efforts to help ensure students, families, and workers
have the information technology capacity needed to fully participate in
society by creating an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50
States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and
implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State, as well
as an additional annual $125 million competitive grant program to support
digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, or
communities of interest. Finally, the legislation tasks the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with evaluating
digital equity projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and
federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most

*“I believe the future belongs to the connected. No matter who you are or
where you live in this country, you need access to modern communications to
have a fair shot at 21st century success. But today millions of American
lack the broadband access that they need to meaningfully participate in the
digital age. That means too many students fall into the Homework Gap,
unable to complete school assignments that require high-speed internet
service. It means that too many small businesses will not have the work
force with the skills necessary to compete in the global economy. It means
that too many communities will go without the civic and commercial
infrastructure that is needed to thrive and grow. So thank you to Senator
Murray for this legislation which thoughtfully addresses digital equity and
seeks to expand technology opportunity for all,”** said Federal
Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. *

*“Local and state leadership drive most efforts to bring people online with
affordable Internet access and training.  On the one hand, this is fabulous
because trusted community relationships are essential to effective digital
inclusion work. On the other hand, financial support of local digital
inclusion work is sorely lacking. The Digital Equity Act recognizes the
value of local trusted institutions while allocating financial support.
NDIA and our 350 affiliates in 41 states fully support the Digital Equity
Act and look forward to its passage,”** said National Digital Inclusion
Alliance Executive Director Angela Siefer. *

The *Digital Equity Act of 2019* is endorsed by: Alliance for Community
Media, American Library Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice,
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Broadband Connects
America, Center for Law and Social Policy, Center for Media Justice, Chief
Officers of State Library Agencies, Coalition on Adult Basic Education,
Common Cause, Consortium for School Networking, Competitive Carriers
Association, Free Press Action Fund, International Society for Technology
in Education, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and
Advisors, National Coalition for Literacy, National Collaborative for
Digital Equity, National Congress of American Indians, National Consumer
Law Center on behalf of their low-income clients, National Digital
Inclusion Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National League of
Cities, National Parent Teacher Association, New America's Open Technology
Institute, Next Century Cities, NTEN, Public Knowledge, Schools, Health &
Libraries Broadband Coalition, State Educational Technology Directors
Association, and the Urban Libraries Council.

*Read the bill text HERE

*Find more background on the Digital Equity Act HERE

*Find a section-by-section breakdown of the Digital Equity Act **HERE
Glenn McKnight
NARALO Secretariat
mcknight.glenn at gmail.com
IEEE Toronto SIGHT Chair
glenn.mcknight at ieee.org
skype  gmcknight
twitter gmcknight
289-830 6259
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