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Mar 2 -- The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, also known (and referred to subsequently herein) as IIJA or the 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. The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is responsible for distributing more than $48 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding through several different programs. NTIA is requesting 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 seeks broad input and feedback from all interested stakeholders across the nation, including Tribal entities, and has established multiple avenues for the public to offer input to bolster NTIA's work and to improve the number and quality of ideas under consideration as the agency develops Notices of Funding Opportunity for each of the Digital Equity Capacity Grant and Digital Equity Competitive Grant Programs to be implemented by NTIA pursuant to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This includes a series of public virtual listening sessions which will be announced at a later date.

Submit written comments on or before 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on May 1, 2023.

Recognizing the internet's fundamental role in today's society and its centrality to our nation's continued health and prosperity, the Biden-Harris Administration will work to ensure that every community in America has access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service. On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 into law, also known (and referred to subsequently herein) as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which 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. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is responsible for distributing more than $48 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding through several different programs, including the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act of 2021 Program.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted what many have known for a very long time: High-speed internet access is not a luxury, but a basic necessity for all Americans. Since the pandemic, telehealth access and use has expanded and the workplace is changing as more workers are choosing to work from home. The Biden-Harris Administration supports bringing affordable, high-speed, reliable internet service and the resources necessary to realize its full potential to every household in America. Passed on a bipartisan basis in both chambers of Congress, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA), Public Law 117-58, 135 Stat. 429 (November 15, 2021), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, allocated $42.45 billion to create the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD), $1 billion to create the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, $2 billion to help tribal communities expand high-speed internet access and adoption on tribal lands, and $2.75 billion (through the Digital Equity Act of 2021 (Digital Equity Act), also passed as part of the IIJA) to advance federal goals relating to digital equity and digital inclusion .

These programs administered by NTIA are designed to work in tandem with other high-speed internet programs, including the Affordable Connectivity Program which provides up to $30 per month toward internet service for qualifying households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Congress took a significant step forward in achieving the Biden-Harris Administration's goal of ensuring that all Americans not only have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet but also the skills and resources needed for full participation in the society and economy of the United States.

This Notice is part of NTIA's strategy to engage with partners, stakeholders, and most importantly, individuals with lived experiences who faced challenges of having access to and/or the skills and devices to fully utilize affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, to help meet the President's goal to close the digital divide and transform the lives of all Americans. This is America's opportunity to harness the talents and strengths of all parts of our country and remove systemic barriers and provide equal access to opportunities and benefits, so that everyone has a chance to reach their full potential. But in order to achieve this objective, we need to hear from you. This Notice is your opportunity to inform how NTIA designs a program that works to achieve this national and community driven opportunity for change.

This Notice offers an opportunity for all interested parties to provide vital input and recommendations for consideration in the development of Digital Equity Act programs established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for implementation by NTIA.

This Notice seeks comment on two Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant programs to be administered by NTIA: the $1.44 billion State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and the $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. Along with the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, these 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.

NTIA welcomes input on any of the matters set forth in this Request for Comment that commenters believe are important to NTIA's implementation efforts. . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-04242

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