A Foundation for Digital Equity, Biden on Cybersecurity, $750 Million Proposal in Wisconsin

Without investments in digital adoption, investments in infrastructure won’t close the digital divide, say advocates.

A Foundation for Digital Equity, Biden on Cybersecurity, $750 Million Proposal in Wisconsin
Photo of Sen. Ben Ray Luján from his website

March 2, 2023 – Legislation that would create a nonprofit foundation dedicated to digital equity and inclusion was introduced in both the House and the Senate on Wednesday.

The Digital Equity Foundation Act was initially introduced in May, but did not pass before legislative turnover brought by the midterm elections. Now it has been reintroduced by Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M. and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.

The foundation is intended to provide digital literacy training, connect residents to affordable service, leverage private sector resources, convene government and private stakeholders to find digital equity solutions, collect data on existing digital inequities, among other things, said New America, a non-profit think tank.

“We commend Senator Lujan and Representative Matsui for recognizing that without sustained investments in digital adoption and inclusion efforts at the community level, the huge new federal investments in broadband infrastructure and affordability won’t close the digital divide,” Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said in a press release.

“A Digital Equity Foundation dedicated to this work, and funded by future spectrum auctions, will provide a sustainable way to tackle this part of the digital divide,” he said.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration also announced Wednesday that it is seeking comment on how to structure the $2.5 billion that the Digital Equity Act that is intended to promote digital equity and inclusion.

White House releases national cybersecurity agenda

The White House on Thursday proposed a new approach to protect against cybersecurity threats.

The statement included government targets of importance, including protecting critical infrastructure, expanding the minimum cybersecurity requirements, disrupting all malicious cyber actors, shaping market forces to drive security and resilience including promoting privacy of personal data, and working with other countries to pursue similar goals such as making secure, reliable, and trustworthy global supply chains for information and communications technology.

“This strategy reflects the vital role that the Department of Commerce plays in cybersecurity and leverages many of the Department’s best-in-class resources, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s guidelines, and many other initiatives,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said about the new strategy on Thursday. “We look forward to implementing this across the administration and in collaboration with the private sector.”

Cybersecurity experts and government officials have been recommending the administration take a more offensive approach on clearing the digital threats.

“The U.S. absolutely needs to bolster its response to malicious cyberactivity,” Nazak Nikakhtar, a former assistant secretary for industry and analysis in the Commerce Department and current partner at law firm Wiley, said at an Internet Governance Forum event in July. “The United States is so far behind in addressing these threats.”

Wisconsin governor pledges millions in long-term broadband plan

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers has proposed a budget including $750 million for broadband expansion over the next decade in the state, according to the governor’s budget.

The accuracy of the map released by the Federal Communications Commission has been challenged more than once in Wisconsin. The state’s Public Service Commission challenged 7,000 locations in Wisconsin that the state believes the FCC got wrong, according to a report by Wisconsin Public Radio.

“If the funding is allocated on faulty maps, then by definition, we’re going to receive less than we should,” said PSC Chair Rebecca Valcq, according to the story.

The story also reported that the FCC accepted around 3,000 challenges from the Wisconsin, according to the state broadband and digital equity director Alyssa Kenney. At the same time, the state also submitted 269,000 challenges to providers’ service claims, only 20,000 are accepted by FCC.

In the meantime, the FCC has launched an investigation into service providers’ delivery of broadband.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a letter to senators earlier this month that the commission is investigating service providers who may have been overreporting data for its broadband map.

“We have taken several steps to prevent systematic overreporting of coverage by broadband service providers,” said Rosenworcel in the letter. “We recognize also that as providers gain familiarity with this system, efforts to intentionally misstate service may be subject to enforcement action. In fact, we already have an investigation underway.”

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