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Federal Broadband Funding Guidelines Now Available for States to Begin Planning, Applications

by on May 16, 2022

On Friday, May 13, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued the first round of Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) documents for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), including the Digital Equity Act state planning grants. ALA advocated for this vital funding for broadband and digital inclusion funding, and ALA Public Policy & Advocacy Office staff are reviewing materials now to provide additional guidance to the field in coming days and weeks. A few quick highlights include:

  • Three notices were published May 13: State Digital Equity Planning Grant NOFO, the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program NOFO, and the Middle Mile program NOFO. They each have different deadlines, requirements, and eligibility. While local libraries will not apply directly for these opportunities, they can and should be engaged with state proposals and benefit directly or indirectly from new funding and network connections in their communities.
  • Digital Equity Act funding comes in three waves: state planning grants, state implementation grants, and national competitive grants. Funding for the first two will be distributed on a state formula basis, and state implementation funding will be greatly tied to state plans. Applications for planning grants are due July 12, 2022, and planning activities will take place for roughly 12 months. Competitive grant applications will open in 2024. NTIA’s fact sheet provides a quick rundown of the programs and timeline.
  • All of the related public resources related to the IIJA are available via the new InternetForAll.gov website.

Additional information and resources for libraries and other digital equity advocates are available here:

  • Archive of “Gearing Up for the Digital Equity Act With Libraries” webinar co-presented by National Skills Coalition (NSC), ALA and PLA.
  • NSC fact sheet on the Digital Equity Act
  • NTIA Digital Equity Act webpage and technical assistance webinars

Four things your library might consider doing in the coming weeks:

  • Reach out to state contacts (e.g., state legislators, governor, state library, state broadband leaders) with the message that your library is excited about new federal funding for digital equity investments and looks forward to participating and assisting with the state planning process. All states should apply for the $60 million in Digital Equity Act planning grants before the July 12, 2022, deadline.
  • Learn more about the Affordable Connectivity Program and how it can support affordable home broadband for your community residents who lack access. Help get the word out!
  • Learn more about digital equity gaps in your community with new data from NTIA and the Census Bureau. Where is the greatest need in your library service area, and how might your library and other partners work to address this need?

Expand your library’s digital literacy capacity now by linking DigitalLearn.org on your library’s online resources for supporting digital literacy and alerting all library staff that it’s freely available for use with patrons seeking to build basic digital skills. More than a dozen video tutorials in English and Spanish are freely available to all and have recently been updated by the Public Library Association with support from AT&T. Learn more about DigitalLearn resources and new funding for public libraries to offer digital literacy workshops here.