Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, DAS Commissioner Michelle Gilman, BITS CIO Mark Raymond, and Doug Casey, Executive Director for the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology announced that the State of Connecticut is receiving $736,568 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to develop a plan that helps ensure all residents can fully participate in today’s digital society. The commission is already engaged in research to develop a five-year digital equity plan to address the barriers to using technology. Connecticut has received the award through the Digital Equity Program, part of the White House’s Internet for All initiative.
While an estimated 99 percent of Connecticut locations can access broadband, 13 percent of households and small businesses do not have a subscription, and 9 percent are “under-connected,” that is, using a service that does not meet current connectivity needs for learning, working, and accessing services. The digital equity plan will help identify barriers Connecticut residents face in using technology, such as affordability, language barriers, and access to training and support.
The grant emphasizes the needs of traditionally disenfranchised groups: residents living at or below 150% of the poverty line, racial and ethnic minorities, the aging, those incarcerated in State facilities, individuals with disabilities or language barriers, residents in rural areas, and veterans. In partnership with other state agencies, libraries, and other community organizations, the commission plans to hold sessions across the state to gather input on the challenges residents face in adopting and using technology. Input from these sessions, surveys, and other research will equip the commission to draft a plan available for public comment in late 2023. If the U.S. Department of Commerce approves that plan, the commission will likely receive $17 million over the next six years to create and scale digital equity initiatives, such as one-on-one training and programs that offer affordable devices.
The work will take place in close coordination with other broadband efforts, such as CEN’s Everybody Learns wireless program and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant overseen by the Office of Telecommunications and Broadband within the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The BEAD program will address broadband availability and affordability for all Connecticut residents. DEEP has received $5M to plan the BEAD program, with a total of $100 million anticipated over the next five years for implementation. The office has worked with partner agencies over the past year to identify barriers to broadband access and has issued a report outlining the progress made to close the digital divide.
For more information about Connecticut’s digital equity efforts, including how to host a public listening session in your community, email Doug Casey from the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology at firstname.lastname@example.org.