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Why states should act now — Notice of Funding Opportunity for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program

Washington D.C. (April 16, 2024) - In today’s world, access to broadband (high-speed internet) is not always a given. There are many Americans who might not have access to broadband depending on where they live, some who may not be able to afford it, and some who do not understand how to use it correctly.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to solve this issue.

A few weeks ago, the NTIA announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, the second of three digital equity programs authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

The Digital Equity Act consists of three funding programs:

  • The $60 million State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program
  • The $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program
  • The $1.25 billion Competitive Grant Program

The NTIA is providing $840 million in capacity grants for all 50 states, territories, and tribal communities to execute their Digital Equity Plans. The total budget for the Capacity Grant Program is $1.44 billion.

Funding allocation for this program includes:

  • $760.8 million for states (including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico)
  • $8.4 million for U.S. territories
  • $45.3 million for native/tribal entities, of which:
    • $3,3 million is allocated for digital equity planning
    • $42 million is earmarked for plan implementation

So, why is this NOFO so important for the states, U.S. territories, and native/tribal entities?

The funding will help each state government and/or designated broadband office create a Digital Equity Plan. These plans will identify the barriers to achieving digital equity faced by certain populations defined by the statute (i.e., covered populations such as low-income or rural residents), and include measurable objectives to promote: 

  • The availability and affordability of broadband technology
  • Online accessibility and the inclusivity of public resources and services
  • Digital literacy
  • Awareness of online privacy and cybersecurity
  • The availability and affordability of consumer devices and technical support for those devices

Many states have already announced how they plan to use these funds to help their residents get access to broadband, make it affordable, and provide digital literacy classes for those who need it. Some of these states include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Montana, New York, and Washington.

On March 29, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray shared how this funding will not only positively impact her home state of Washington, but also the entire country.

“Today’s announcement will be a game changer as we work to close the Digital Divide in Washington state and across the country,” she said. “This funding will allow all 50 states to implement the Digital Equity Plans they’ve spent the last year developing — this is another big step toward ensuring that people and communities everywhere can participate in and benefit from an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s helping people access health care online, apply for jobs, or learn new skills, the Digital Equity Act is an investment in our families, our workforce, and our overall competitiveness in a 21st century economy.”

States, U.S. territories, and native/tribal entities must act NOW! Deadlines for applications and funding requests include:

  • May 28, 2024, for the 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
  • July 31, 2024, for U.S. territories (not Puerto Rico).
  • The application window for tribal communities (competitive process) will open on September 25, 2024, and close on February 7, 2025.

Then on August 28, 2024, the NTIA expects to complete its review, select successful applicants, and begin processing the awards.

For more information about the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, read the full NOFO executive summary from the NTIA here!

Digtial Equity Ntia Nofo 2