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Puerto Rico has $9.8M available to develop Digital Equity Plan

The U.S Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the availability of more than $9.8 million for Puerto Rico to launch its State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program.x

“States and U.S. territories will receive funding to adopt sustainable, long-term programs that address digital equity through defined projects and activities, consistent with their Digital Equity Plans, that will have a measurable impact on the availability, affordability, and adoption of broadband technology, the accessibility and inclusivity of public resources, digital literacy and skills, awareness of the importance of cybersecurity, online privacy, and the availability and affordability of consumer devices,” the NTIA detailed in its Notice of Funding Opportunity late last week.

This is the second of three digital equity programs authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, also known as the Digital Equity Act, which appropriated $2.75 billion to “promote digital inclusion activities and achieve digital equity,” the agency stated.

The Digital Equity Act consists of three funding programs: the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program with $60 million, the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program with $1.44 billion, and the Competitive Grant Program with $1.25 billion. 

The first funding round opened May 13, 2022, making funds available to states and territories to develop State Digital Equity Plans. In September, the local government — which is advancing its Puerto Rico Broadband Program, known as Smart Island — sought public comment on its Digital Equity Plan until October 2023.

The NTIA specifies that the funding can only be used to update or maintain the State Digital Equity Plan; implement it; issue subgrants; evaluate subgrantee-funded efforts; and cover administrative costs, which must not exceed 3% of the grant.

“NTIA recognizes that Digital Equity Plans will contain a wide variety of potential programs, activities, and interventions, and encourages the development of new and innovative strategies to address the barriers to digital equity,” the NTIA commented. “These programs must focus on creating the necessary conditions to empower individuals and communities with the technological capacity to fully participate in society and the economy.”

States, including Puerto Rico, have until May 28 to submit their applications for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. The NTIA expects to begin issuing awards no later than August 28, on a rolling basis.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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