NSC Submits Comments on Digital Equity Act

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, February 04, 2022

NSC members chalked up a major win this past November when the bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed into law by President Biden. Included in the new legislation was the Digital Equity Act, which reflects several of the principles NSC has been advocating for through our Digital Equity @ Work campaign.

Over the next five years, the Digital Equity Act will pour $2.75 billion into states and communities, starting with an initial round of $60 million in state Digital Equity Plan grants in Spring 2022. (Get a basic overview of the Digital Equity Act via the slides and recording from NSC’s December 2021 webinar.)

Implementation of the Act will be overseen by the US Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). To kick off the state Digital Equity Planning process, NTIA recently issued a public Request for Comment to the field.

NSC weighed in with detailed comments on a range of digital skills-related issues. Comments were developed based on NSC’s extensive conversations with members over the past two years, including through a series of listening sessions held in Fall 2021 about overall federal workforce development policy priorities, the four Spring/Summer 2021 Industry Recovery Panels, and ongoing individual calls with stakeholders.

Select recommendations from NSC’s comments:

  • Ensure that organizations led by (and with a track record of success in serving) people from marginalized communities are front and center throughout state Digital Equity Planning processes and federal implementation of the Digital Equity Act.
  • Encourage states to align their Digital Equity Plans with other state plans and initiatives, such as Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plans, SNAP Employment and Training Plans, and postsecondary attainment goals.
  • Balance the need for high-quality data about program impacts with the imperative to avoid overburdening individuals or organizations with excessive data collection. In particular, encourage states to design for categorical eligibility (e.g., everyone who lives in a high-poverty zip code can participate) rather than individual eligibility (e.g., people must provide proof of their individual income in order to participate).
  • Refrain from adding requirements about immigration status, so that people of any status will be able to participate in Digital Equity Act programs and services.
  • Use investments in the broadband workforce development sphere to strengthen proven models (such as industry sector partnerships and supportive services for training participants) that can provide on-ramps to good jobs for workers of color and other under-represented workers

Get all the details in NSC’s full 15-page comments.

In addition to these organizational comments, NSC also coordinated comments through the Immigration & Federal Skills Policy working group that focused specifically on the Digital Equity Act’s impact on immigrants and English learners. NSC also provided a template for adult education leaders to adapt and use for their own individual comments.

Coming up next!

Mark your calendars for more information about Digital Equity Act implementation via two upcoming webinars:

  • March 22, 2022 – NSC’s webinar Implementing the Digital Equity Act: What Workforce and Education Advocates Need to Know about Digital Inclusion
  • April 12, 2022 – New Federal Investments in Digital Equity: What Libraries Need to Know, co-hosted by the American Library Association, Public Library Association, and NSC

In addition, NSC staff will be presenting on this topic at the Coalition for Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference on April 13, 2022.