Today, Common Cause submitted comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Request for Comments on the implementation of broadband programs in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The comments draw heavily on input from 2,500 Common Cause members contending with the digital divide who weighed in during a canvas of the organization’s 1.5 million members.
The comments focus on the implementation of the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program and the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. The three Digital Equity Act programs promote digital inclusion and equity to ensure that all individuals and communities have the skills, technology, and capacity needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy and society.
The comments were written in collaboration with our members to make recommendations to ensure NTIA funds sustainable and community-focused programs that will support the connectivity needs of marginalized communities.
The recommendations include:
- Support the capacity of crusted community institutions and leaders to improve digital literacy and improve connectivity.
- Centering the quality and degree of community engagement and education as benchmarks for program effectiveness.
- The prioritization of capacity funding for recruiting staff and paid volunteers from under-connected communities.
- Collecting stories and testimony from marginalized communities to supplement incomplete data and involve them in the implementation process.
Statement of Raelyn Roberson, Common Cause Media and Democracy Campaigner
“The digital divide is nothing short of a chasm in far too many unserved and underserved communities in our nation. These NTIA programs represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close that gaping divide by funding effective and inclusive digital equity projects to ensure that all of our communities are digitally ready to participate in our democracy, our economy, and our society.
“Community engagement is critical to the success of these programs. There must be robust stakeholder requirements to ensure that the communities most impacted by the digital divide have a seat at the table in the planning and implementation of these funds. Recruiting staff and paid volunteers from under-connected communities is imperative to the success. The degree and quality of engagement and education of those who currently sit on the wrong side of the digital divide must serve as benchmarks for the effectiveness of these programs.
“Common Cause, our members, and our allies look forward to continuing to engage with NTIA and other stakeholders as we collectively work toward closing the digital divide.”
To read the comments submitted by Common Cause, click here.