SHLB Executive Director Calls for ‘Build America, Buy America’ Waivers: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2022 — Broadband advocates argued Thursday that awareness and digital literacy are as important as infrastructure and are necessary to bridge the digital divide.

Executive Director of the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion Angela Sifer explained at a protocol event on Thursday that government considerations must extend beyond the deployment of physical broadband infrastructure and should also be focused on digital literacy and adoption efforts in communities. underserved and unserved communities.

Siefer listed several pitfalls that are often overlooked and only widen the digital divide. Among them, she listed the costs associated with digital literacy, such as securing devices to access the internet and the technical support needed to make them usable.

Additionally, she addressed the lack of trust that exists between historically underserved and unserved communities.

“We need to understand why people wouldn’t use the internet for free,” Siefer said of past adoption programs. “I think we learned that lesson over and over again during the height of the pandemic when a lot of people were trying to work through affordability issues. [by] community members paying for internet, and community members would say “no”, and they just walk away because free internet looks like a scam.

She said those running programs designed to help these communities need to consider the unique issues that each community faces, and then assess who the communities trust and how best to get information to them.

“There might be device issues, there might be privacy and security issues, or maybe other digital skills/needs that a person has,” Siefer said. “So we have to meet all their needs. Because if we think we’re only going to fix the problem by attacking one, we won’t get the results we want to achieve.

NTIA Director Explains Broadband Infrastructure Process

In separate remarks at the event, the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Alan Davidson outlined a roadmap for states to follow to receive federal funding allocated under the commerce agency’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, which will distribute $42.5 billion of the law on infrastructure, investment and employment.

Davidson explained that in order for states to receive their allocated funding, they must provide plans for how they will manage their grantmaking procedures, and that plan must be approved by the NTIA. “[The NTIA] was given the authority to approve the initial plans that the states developed,” Davidson said. “Alone [on the initial plan] has been approved, is the first installment paid?

This first part of the financing will represent only 20% of the total sum that the State can obtain. Following this dispersal of the initial 20%, states should submit a final plan and have it approved by NTIA before the next 80% is dispersed.

“We will have a lot of oversight to make sure states meet the requirements of the law and comply with the requirements,” Davidson added. “There will also be a lot of oversight of the grants program to make sure the money is spent wisely – to make sure the subrecipients who receive the money actually meet their commitments.”

“We know we’re going to have to partner with [states] and offer them help as well,” Davidson said. “Different states are in really different situations. “We know we’re going to have to partner with them and support them — that’s going to be a key part of what we do here in the federal government.”

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