NDIA Releases Digital Equity Implementation Manual

Digital Inclusion

The document is intended to help states and territories carry out their IIJA digital equity plans.

Jake Neenan NDIA Releases Digital Equity Implementation Manual Photo of Amy Huffman, NDIA policy director

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2024 – The National Digital Inclusion Alliance released on Thursday a new guide for states and territories on implementing their digital equity plans.

The group’s digital equity implementation manual comes less than one week after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration opened applications for $811 million of the $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. Smaller awards are expected over the next two years.

It’s the second of three programs stood up by the $2.75-billion Digital Equity Act, a subset of the 2021 Infrastructure Law aimed at addressing barriers to broadband adoption that will persist even after network infrastructure is expanded through the larger Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program. 

The capacity grants are for states and territories to implement the digital equity plans they submitted to the NTIA. Another $1.25 billion will be available later this year in the agency’s Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, in which other entities can apply directly for funding to support digital equity projects.

NDIA produced its digital equity implementation manual with nonprofits and broadband offices to assist states and territories in carrying out their digital equity plans. Those plans outline steps to increase broadband adoption in vulnerable communities by addressing issues like affordability and digital literacy, the ability to navigate and access online services.

“This manual is the product of months of research, listening, and a massive team effort,” the group wrote.

The guide provides advice for planning, carrying out, and evaluating digital equity initiatives, as well as for working with vulnerable communities and standing up subgrant programs.

Once the NTIA approves a state’s digital equity plan, it’s free to apply for the funding the agency earmarked for it under the program. Those amounts were determined based on population sizes and relative lack of broadband adoption. Texas took home the most funding with $55.6 million.

Applications are due to the agency by May 28 for states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Other U.S. territories and tribal entities will have more time for submissions. 

The agency said in its notice of funding opportunity that it plans to start awarding capacity grant funds by August 28 and continue on a rolling basis.

The agency has approved a string of digital equity plans in recent weeks, with at least 16 total states getting the go-ahead.