Interactive Tool Provides Accessible Data on Economic and Digital Opportunity Gaps as States and Broadband Providers Build Plans Aimed at Eliminating the Digital Divide
In case you missed it, Microsoft released a new Digital Equity Data Dashboard that will be a critical resource for advocates, policymakers, providers and the public to better understand the relationship between affordable, reliable broadband, digital devices and equity in American society.
The dashboard, “aggregates public data from the Census Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), BroadbandNow and Microsoft’s own Broadband Usage Data,” Vickie Robinson, General Manager of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, said in a blog Thursday. “It goes census tract-by-census tract, examining 20 different indicators of digital equity – such as broadband access, usage, education and poverty rates – to create one of the most complete pictures of digital equity in these areas to date.”
“Digital equity – access to affordable internet, affordable devices and digital skills – is a foundation for empowerment, digital transformation and economic opportunity,” Robinson added. “The pandemic made clear that being digitally connected – either through broadband or mobile internet – is a fundamental necessity for every citizen, and not just for school and work.”
The interactive dashboard will be particularly valuable for states and broadband providers as they build plans for the implementation of broadband programs established by the bipartisan Infrastructure Jobs and Investment Act (IIJA).
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has emphasized the importance of addressing digital equity with the historic resources made available for programs like the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) — that will deliver more than $40 billion to states targeted at closing the broadband gap.
To win funding through the BEAD program, NTIA will require states to “undertake extensive outreach and engagement with local governments, potential subgrantees and community digital equity stakeholders,” according to law firm Faegre Drinker.
NTIA’s guidance also requires “projects to provide a low-cost option to eligible subscribers, requires all states to have plans to address middle-class affordability, and further prioritizes proposals that improve affordability to ensure that networks built using taxpayer dollars are accessible to all Americans.”
A separate NTIA IIJA program, the Digital Equity Act, provides $60 million for states to craft five-year plans to address digital equity.
Access Microsoft’s new digital equity dashboard HERE.
Read Microsoft’s blog, “A street-by-street view of digital inequity in the United States,” HERE.
Learn more about how federal agencies can maximize the effectiveness of bipartisan infrastructure resources to eliminate the digital divide HERE.
Read more on Connect Americans Now (CAN) and our mission HERE.