NATOA Files Comments in NTIA's Digital Equity Act Request for Comments

Posted By: Mike J. Lynch Community, Top Issues,

NATOA filed comments today in the much-discussed National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) proceeding seeking comments on the Digital Equity Act of 2021. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA or Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,) includes a historic investment of $65 billion to help close the digital divide and ensure that everyone in America has access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service.  NTIA is responsible for distributing more than $48 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding through several programs. 

NTIA requested comments on the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act of 2021 Program, and on the design and implementation of two components of that grant program: 

  • the $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and 
  • the $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. 

NTIA sought broad input and feedback from all interested stakeholders across the country.

NTIA had reached out to NATOA after reading our FCC Comments for further discussion about how local governments can help address digital discrimination last month. The NTIA meeting gave us a chance to explain the benefits of local franchising to another federal agency with influence over federal communications policy and funding.

NATOA's filed comments with NTIA that relied heavily on both the NATOA Comments and Reply Comments in the FCC’s Prevention and Elimination of Digital Discrimination NPRM and last year’s Digital Discrimination Notice of Inquiry filings by NATOA, as well.  Our comments note that local governments have a responsibility to protect and steward their most valuable real estate asset — the public rights-of-way. Local authority assures that multiple and often conflicting uses of public rights-of-way do not thwart the public purposes to which it is dedicated.  Local governments also manage public rights-of-way to encourage market entry and competition.  

The Comments include extensive excerpts from the FCC's Communications Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC) Report -- “Recommendations and Best Practices to Prevent Digital Discrimination and Promote Digital Equity" -- which was submitted to the FCC in November.  In particular, we cited much of the work of the Digital Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group which included NATOA's representative, Rebecca Gibbons, Strategic Initiatives Manager for the City of Portland, Oregon, who did a fabulous job in the Working Group advocating for the roles of local government in Digital Equity and Inclusion.