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The Department of Commerce announced $811 million in funding to bolster digital inclusion efforts across states, territories and, later this year, Native entities.  

Under a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released Friday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), states and territories can begin applying immediately for funding their digital equity plans

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Native entities will have to wait until this fall to apply for $45 million available to Indian tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations. The application window for Native entities will open on Sept. 25, 2024 and close on Feb. 7, 2025.  

The funding for Native entities is available on a competitive basis to promote digital inclusion and broadband adoption efforts for their communities. The amount includes $3 million for digital equity planning activities and $42 million for related projects. 

The Digital Equity Act requires that no less than 5% of award funds be available to Tribal governments and Native entities.  

The announcement marks the country’s “single largest investment in digital equity ever,” according to NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. 

The funding will ensure that seniors, veterans, communities of color, families living below the poverty line, and people living in rural areas have the tools, skills, and devices they need to thrive in the modern digital economy, according to Davidson.   

“President Biden is committed to ensuring everyone in America has access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “Commerce’s work building high-speed Internet infrastructure is only part of the equation. Families across America need the tools and skills required to make the most of that Internet connection … (this) digital equity initiative will make the promise of the Internet come alive for everyone in our country, no matter where they live or what their background is.”   

As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Digital Equity Act provided $2.75 billion to establish three grant programs that promote digital equity and inclusion.  

Last week’s NOFO announced the first funding available through the $1.44 billion Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. The funding opportunity includes funds appropriated for Fiscal Years 2022-2024. Additional funding opportunities will be available in the future, according to a Commerce Department release.   

In 2022, NTIA also began awarding $60 million to states and territories from the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. Since then, all 50 States, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted their Digital Equity Plans to NTIA for acceptance, and NTIA continues to review plans. Once an eligible entity’s plan is accepted, it is able to apply to this new funding opportunity announced today. 

In the coming months, NTIA will also launch the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, which is a $1.25 billion grant program that will make funds available to a variety of entities, including political subdivisions of states, native entities, nonprofits, community anchor institutions, local educational agencies, workforce development organizations, as well as territories. 

By statute, the competitive grant program will launch 30 days after NTIA makes its first Capacity Grant Program award.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the deadline of Feb. 7, 2025 for Native entities to submit applications.