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Digital Inclusion Week 2021: Supporting Digital Equity and Digital Empowerment

In the 21st century economy, broadband access and affordability isn’t a luxury – it’s essential to everyday life. Our economy cannot fully recover unless all Americans can fully participate in our Nation’s digital economy. Affordable broadband internet is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected. 

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building back a better, more equitable economy where no one is left behind. And digital inclusion is top of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. The recent Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Bill calls for rebuilding our Nation’s broadband infrastructure with a proposed $65 billion investment that will ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is joining more than 600 organizations this week to celebrate Digital Inclusion Week, an annual event that raises awareness of solutions to address home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs. This year’s theme, Pathways to Digital Empowerment, inspires and underscores the Biden Administration’s commitment to equality and NTIA’s mission to ensure that every American is connected and using broadband to the fullest extent.

Two of NTIA’s current grant programs specifically support digital equity in historically under-represented and marginalized communities in the U.S.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) is making $980 million available to eligible Native American, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning. The purpose of the TBCP grant program is to improve quality of life, spur economic development and commercial activity, create opportunities for remote employment and online entrepreneurship, remote learning, and telehealth opportunities in Native American communities.

The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC) seeks to build the digital capacity of eligible Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-serving Institutions (MSIs).  The CMC pilot program will provide $268 million in grant funding to enable these institutions further broadband access, adoption, and digital skills for their students and surrounding communities through partnerships with nonprofit organizations and minority business enterprises.

NTIA continues to work closely with state, tribal and local governments as well as a variety of other stakeholders to help them collaborate, share information, and establish best practices.  Through the State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN), NTIA facilitates communities of practitioners that work on increasing broadband access and digital inclusion at the state and local levels. NTIA is also in the process of developing a state digital equity framework in partnership with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to assist state governments in developing strategic digital equity plans tailored for their state. 

NTIA also provides online tools and resources to assist organizations in their in digital inclusion planning including the BroadbandUSA Indicators of Broadband Need Map and NTIA Data Central, with data about broadband adoption, use and computer ownership, and the BroadbandUSA Federal Funding Guide with information about digital inclusion funding opportunities across the federal government.

NTIA will continue to work with its federal partners and stakeholders nationwide to promote universal broadband adoption and digital empowerment.