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Feds OK State’s Digital Equity Plan, Clearing Way for $70.2M in Grants

The funds, from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, will be used for affordable Internet service, state-of-the-art devices and digital literacy training. According to the California Department of Technology, “Now the state will pivot from planning to action.”

The California Department of Technology announced Friday that it has reached a key milestone with federal approval of the California State Digital Equity Plan, which the department said “unlocks” $70.2 million for use in closing the “digital divide.”

Approval of the plan by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) “positions California to receive a Digital Equity Capacity Grant funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021,” said a CDT news release. “The $70.2 million will support initiatives that make affordable Internet service, state-of-the-art devices, and digital literacy training accessible to Californians.”

The federal agency, part of the U.S. Commerce Department, has a policymaking mission focused “largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users.” It’s the agency in the executive branch that’s “principally responsible for advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues.”

CDT described the news as “a major win” for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiative to ensure access to reliable and affordable broadband for everyone in the state. “Now,” CDT said, “the state will pivot from planning to action.”

Amy Tong, secretary of the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps) and former CDT director, said: “We are now poised to turn our comprehensive plan into action, ensuring that every Californian has the tools and training they need to thrive in a digitally connected world.”

Tong was state chief information officer and CDT director in 2020, when Newsom signed Executive Order N-73-20 to boost digital connectivity across the state. In 2022, he directed CDT and other state agencies to develop the digital equity plan. Since then, CDT together with over 50,000 residents, partners, tribal communities, advocates, and local governments across the state developed strategies to close the digital divide included in the State Digital Equity Plan.

As GovOps secretary, Tong is senior adviser to the California Broadband Council and a member of the Middle Mile Advisory Committee, which aims to close the state’s digital divide.

Liana Bailey-Crimmins, who succeeded Tong as state CIO and CDT director in June 2022, was similarly pleased with the federal acceptance of the state plan.

“I am proud of the work done in partnership with residents and advocates across California to build the State Digital Equity Plan,” Bailey-Crimmins said. “We look forward to implementing the plan with our community partners because there is no equity without digital equity.”

CDT expects to receive the funds this summer and to begin distributing them through grants in spring 2025.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.