CHARLESTON, W.VA —In honor of Digital Inclusion Week, an annual event that raises awareness about digital equity work across the country, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development announced today the award of $730,000 for the development of West Virginia’s Digital Equity Plan.
The funds, which come in the form of a Digital Equity Planning Grant from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), are part of the Internet for All initiative, a $60 million program for states and territories to develop digital equity plans. This grant was created and funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.
“Too many West Virginians lack access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet and we’re doing something about it,” said Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael. “Gov. Justice and everyone in his administration is committed to making West Virginia an economic powerhouse and that’s why we need to keep improving Internet infrastructure and information technology capacity for individuals, businesses and communities across our great state.”
Digital Equity means that all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital inclusion efforts address three main areas: affordable internet, access to appropriate devices, and digital skills training – basic necessities that millions of Americans are living without.
As part of Gov. Justice’s Billion Dollar Broadband Initiative, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, Office of Broadband, along with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and other strategic partners, will develop West Virginia’s Digital Equity Plan and Five-Year Broadband Action Plan over the next year. The U.S. Department of Commerce and the NTIA require each state to develop a Digital Equity Plan and a Five-Year Broadband Action Plan to obtain Infrastructure Act funding. The plans will be submitted to NTIA, and upon approval, will secure all available funding under the Infrastructure Act and help achieve digital equity and expand broadband in the Mountain State.
“As we see federal law turn into actual funding for digital inclusion, it’s our time to start ‘Turning Our Moment into Movement,’ which is our theme for Digital Inclusion Week 2022,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). “We invite advocates, policymakers, community leaders, educators, researchers, and others to come together this week – and all year long – to advance digital equity nationwide.”
Eligible West Virginians are encouraged to visit https://www.fcc.gov/acp to register for the Affordable Connectivity Program to obtain federal assistance with Internet service. The West Virginia Office of Broadband encourages organizations that promote digital equity to send contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Digital Inclusion Week, visit digitalinclusion.org/diw22. To learn more about West Virginia’s broadband development initiative, visit broadband.wv.gov.
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