May 23

What Federal Digital Equity Money Means for Local Governments

Author: Dani Esterline

community meeting

Our previous blog discussed how digital equity impacts communication efforts between local government agencies and constituents, and some tips to help bridge the divide of digital equity. 

The Biden Administration has begun taking steps to administer 45 billion dollars of federal funding for broadband and digital equity, “with the money going first to state governments tasked with executing the vision.” Quaintance.

For some more context, the 45 billion dollars is part of 65-dollar broadband infrastructure, suggesting that the internet is now being seen as a necessary utility for residents nationwide by the federal government, a momentous conclusion to come for the U.S. 

Resident editing site

 We know that readily available internet at the local government level has enormous benefits for the development of a community,  National League of Cities says,  “Digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning and access to essential services.” 

Essentially, state governments have been tasked with the job of using broadband and digital equity funding in ways that best suit their needs. There are some hurdles for state governments though, like the fact that broadband and infrastructure offices lack staffers that can delegate decision-making for funding. 

Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) says

“The goal here should be to make sure this isn't just disaster response funding allocated in the wake of a global pandemic, but rather a moment in which society and its power structures accept that everyone should have access to effective high-speed Internet at all times, not just occasionally via public Wi-Fi or on their phones.” 

So let’s get into where local governments play a crucial and essential part in this state-administered funding, local government officials are the ones who know what their communities lack or could improve upon with digital equity. 

State governments having open and honest conversations with local governments could improve the end goal as a whole, as local governments have opportunities to get residents engaged. “If the program is being pushed by a senior center or a church or a housing group that also teaches computer classes, folks are more likely to listen.” Quaintance

Community meeting

This round of funding isn’t an end-all or one-stop solution for solving digital equity, but local governments can get involved by staying informed on the resources and opportunities to engage with state leaders to help bridge the divide of digital equity. 

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