NTIA Digital Equity Webinar Series: Digital Equity for Small and Rural Communities

Broadband connectivity can help small and rural communities become more economically competitive and create opportunities for sustained and prosperous growth. This webinar will look at the unique challenges small and rural communities face and innovative solutions that are improving access and digital equity in these communities.

Date/Time: Thursday, June 27, 2:00pm-3:00pm ET

NITA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity Published

Bringing Digital Equity to Every Corner of America: A Summary of the NTIA’s State Digital Equity Capacity Grant FY24 Grant Program

In today’s digital age, being connected online is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity for education, healthcare, jobs, and more. However, not everyone has equal access to this digital world, which is why the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has stepped up with an exciting opportunity: the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Goal: The program aims to close the digital divide, ensuring everyone, especially those from underserved communities, has access to reliable, affordable broadband and the skills to use it.
  • Who’s Eligible? All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories can apply. They’ll need a Digital Equity Plan to be eligible.
  • The Funding: There’s $2.75 billion waiting to be awarded, aimed at supporting digital inclusion activities across America.
  • Key Dates: For states, including DC and Puerto Rico, applications are due by May 28, 2024. U.S. territories have until July 31, 2024. Native entities, including Indian Tribes and Alaska Native entities, can apply between September 25, 2024, and February 7, 2025.
  • What Can the Money Be Used For? Funds can support various activities, such as updating or maintaining digital equity plans, implementing these plans, and making subgrants for digital inclusion activities. However, there are restrictions to ensure the funds are used effectively and directly benefit those in need.
  • The Big Picture: This isn’t just about getting everyone online; it’s about empowering all Americans to participate fully in our society and economy. Digital equity is seen as crucial for everything from job opportunities to healthcare access, educational resources, and more.
  • Why It Matters: The digital divide has kept too many Americans from reaching their full potential. By addressing this issue head-on, the NTIA is taking a significant step toward a more inclusive future where everyone has the chance to succeed in the digital age.

So, whether you’re involved in state or local government, part of a non-profit working in digital inclusion, or simply a concerned citizen, this is a moment of opportunity. It’s a chance to bridge gaps, open doors, and ensure that the digital future is bright and equitable for all.

‘Right to repair’ bill passes Legislature, heads to Gov. Kotek

by Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle
March 4, 2024

Try, try and try again, and eventually you might win – in the Oregon Legislature.

That was the case Monday for Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, who has tried since 2021 to get the Legislature to pass a “right to repair” bill giving individuals more options to fix their own electronic gear. In a final vote, her Senate Bill 1596 passed the House with a bipartisan 42-13 vote about a week after it passed the Senate, 25-5. It now heads to Gov. Tina Kotek for her signature.

Sollman, who was listening to the discussion and watching the vote, threw her arms up afterward and declared “I’m floating” as she strolled out of the chamber.“ It’s been quite a journey. But I have to say, this is a village movement. Oregonians really firmly believe that they own something they should have the right to repair. And that’s what we stayed focused on in this policy,” Sollman said. 

The bill would require manufacturers to offer any necessary documentation, parts, tools or any device needed to repair electronic equipment at a “fair cost” and on “reasonable” terms. Those tools would allow consumers to fix their gear themselves or go to independent repair shops rather than being forced to go to the manufacturer or an authorized facility, potentially paying more. The bill also would ban the practice of companies disabling devices or voiding warranties for devices fixed without authorized parts. It would apply to cell phones made in 2021 and after and to other products dating to 2015.

Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, who presented the bill to House members, said it would be good for the environment, schools, local businesses and seniors. “This bill will increase affordable options to repair devices and provide options for consumers who cannot easily buy a new phone, tablet or laptop.” She said it would save money and reduce emissions and electronic waste, noting that Oregonians toss nearly 5,000 phones every day. “If every Oregonian extended the life of their phones just one year, it would be the equivalent of removing 8,100 cars off the road,” Neron said. 

The bill drew bipartisan support, with House Democrats voting in favor along with several Republicans, including Rep. Kevin Mannix, R-Salem, who said it reflected Oregonians’ attitude toward fixing their own equipment. If signed by Kotek, the bill will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Supporters say the bill would be especially good for marginalized communities that are often left on the sidelines in the digital world. A 2021 report by the Federal Trade Commission to Congress said consumer products are becoming increasingly harder to fix and maintain and that communities of color are heavily affected. 

The Oregon bill was modeled after the one in California, which is going into effect in July. It was crafted with input from advocates, manufacturers and business organizations, and Google and the Technology Association of Oregon, which represents small and international technology companies, support the bill. 

It is also backed by about 100 small repair shops across the state along with recycling nonprofits, the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board, Metro and the League of Oregon Cities. Intel, Amazon, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Oregon Business & Industry, the state’s largest business group, are neutral. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

(Note: this article has been edited for length. You can read the full, un-edited article at https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/2024/03/04/right-to-repair-bill-passes-legislature-heads-to-gov-kotek/)

The Presence of Broadband Access Affects the Health of Individuals within the BEAD Covered Populations

Extension.oregonstate.edu article

The U.S. Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program identifies covered populations as historically disadvantaged groups. The covered population includes individuals aged 60 and above, those incarcerated, veterans, individuals with disabilities, people facing language barriers (including English learners with low literacy levels), individuals from racial or ethnic minority backgrounds, and those primarily residing in rural areas. There are numerous challenges that hinder individuals within the covered populations from utilizing broadband for health-related purposes, exacerbating healthcare disparities. This article explores the complexities and challenges encountered by these specific groups underscoring the critical need for tailored approaches to improve healthcare access and utilization through digital platforms.

(read the rest of the article on extension.oregonstate.edu)