Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senate Democratic colleagues to introduce new legislation aimed at closing the growing digital divide in communities across the country. The Digital Equity Act of 2019 creates new federal investments in a diverse array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”— a concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the “condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.”
“In my hometown of Las Vegas, nearly 1 in 5 residents have no internet subscription due to a lack of reliable and cost-effective internet services. This unequal access puts students behind at school as they struggle to submit online homework assignments or practice digital skills outside the classroom. It means many families across the Silver State still don’t have the infrastructure they need to fulfill their internet needs – from job hunting, to banking, to keeping in touch with loved ones. I’m proud to support the Digital Equity Act, which will not only help bridge this technology divide by funding broadband expansion projects but will also help ensure all Nevadans have the digital literacy they need to thrive in our 21st century economy.”
In addition to Senators Cortez Masto and Murray, this legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.). A companion bill will also be introduced in the House of Representatives.
The Digital Equity Act of 2019 strengthens federal support for efforts to help ensure students, families, and workers have the information technology capacity needed to fully participate in society by creating an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State, as well as an additional annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, or communities of interest. The legislation also tasks the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with evaluating digital equity projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.