NTIA Making Resources Available to Help States Turn Digital Equity Plans into Reality

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, March 29, 2024

Digital Beat

NTIA Making Resources Available to Help States Turn Digital Equity Plans into Reality

On March 29, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. Through this program, NTIA is making funding available for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Indian Tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations1 to turn their digital equity plans into digital inclusion activities. 

What State Digital Equity Capacity Grants Are For

State Digital Equity Capacity Grants can only be used for five purposes:

  1. To update or maintain a state's digital equity plan (although no more than 20 percent of the grant can be used for this purpose),
  2. To implement a state's digital equity plan,
  3. To make subgrants to implement a state's digital equity plan,2
  4. To evaluate subgrantees' efforts (although no more than 5 percent of the grant can be used for this purpose), and
  5. Administrative costs (although no more than 3 percent of the grant can be used for this purpose).

NTIA encourages states to focus on the following:

  • Covered populations (defined by law as people living in low-income households; people age 60 or above; incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disabilities; people with a language barrier; members of racial or ethnic minority groups; and people who live in rural areas),
  • Long-lasting and meaningful change,
  • Measurable implementation strategies, and 
  • Stakeholder engagement. Stakeholders who are directly affected by the proposed strategies and interventions should be involved to encourage ongoing feedback regarding the effectiveness of the interventions and to seek input on potential solutions and improvements.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, NTIA suggests state activities include digital literacy and skills training; e-government and civic engagement; device distribution programs; economic development (digital entrepreneurship, online job training, and remote work opportunities, fostering economic empowerment and reducing disparities); online access to health and mental wellness services; online accessibility; and access to affordable broadband service. 

State Digital Equity Capacity Grants cannot be used to supplant other federal or state funds that have been made available to carry out the activities above. Nor can funds be used for broadband deployment.


Congress appropriated $840 million for grants under the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program through fiscal year 20243 ($240 million for fiscal year 2022, $300 million for fiscal year 2023, and $300 million for fiscal year 2024). Future NOFOs are expected to make up to an additional $300,000,000 available for implementation of Digital Equity Plans and digital inclusion activities in each of fiscal years 2025 and 2026.

The Capacity Grant Program does not require cost sharing or matching, and NTIA will not give additional consideration during the evaluation process for applications proposing a non-federal cost-sharing contribution.

About $760 million is available to 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico 

Each state’s funding allocation, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, was calculated based on a formula defined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The formula takes into account the relative population of the state (50%), the relative size of the covered populations residing in the state (25%), and the comparative lack of availability and adoption of broadband (25%). 

About $45 million is available to native entities

The Capacity Grant program will make $45 million available on a competitive basis to Native Entities to promote digital inclusion and broadband adoption efforts for their communities. This includes over $3 million for digital equity planning activities and $42 million for related projects. The Digital Equity Act requires that no less than 5 percent of award funds be available to Tribal governments and Native entities.  

About $8.4 million is available to territories

The Digital Equity Act includes a set aside of no less than 1 percent of available award funds for the remaining territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands.  This NOFO includes a set aside of $8.4 million, split equally among those four territories. 


Digital Equity Tentative Allocation Amount

















District of Columbia










































New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia






American Samoa




Northern Mariana Islands


Puerto Rico


U.S. Virgin Islands



Grantees and subgrantees are required to incorporate program measurement and evaluation activities as a part of their program design and implementation—including progress made toward meeting the measurable objectives identified in a state's digital equity plan., Information collected must include the following data points:

  • Number of Covered Population(s) served,
  • Number of people served within each Covered Population, 
  • Total number of people served,
  • Number of programs implemented by type,
  • Anecdotal/personal testimony demonstrating the positive impact of the Program,
  • Quantifiable evidence of progress toward the measurable objectives identified in the Digital Equity Plan, and
  • Impact on the State or Territory’s goals regarding economic and workforce development outcomes; educational outcomes; health outcomes; civic and social engagement; and delivery of essential services.


States (including the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) have until May 28, 2024 to complete and submit applications for State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program awards. U.S. Territories have until July 31. The application window for Indian Tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations will open September 25, 2024, and close on February 7, 2025.

NTIA expects to begin issuing awards to states no later than August 28, 2024 and to make awards on a rolling basis.

Awardees will five years from the date of their grants to spend the federal funding.

Get More Info

This article is not intended to be a full summary of the NTIA's NOFO; please read the notice for additional details. 

NTIA employs a great number of marvelously helpful and informative people. For additional information about this funding opportunity, we suggest starting with the following:

For programmatic inquiries: Director of Digital Equity Angela Thi Bennett digitalequity@ntia.gov  

For grant management inquiries: NIST Grants Officer Darren Olson darren.olson@nist.gov

For media inquiries (media are people, too): Director of Public Affairs Charles Meisch press@ntia.doc.gov


  1. We generally use "states" in this article to mean all these "eligible entities."
  2. Each state must establish a fair, transparent, equitable, and inclusive process for selecting and conducting risk assessments of subgrantees. The applicant’s selection processes must be made clear to potential subgrantees before subawards are made. NTIA strongly encourages states to take deliberate steps to ensure that subgrant opportunities are accessible to a diverse range of organizations, particularly those owned, led and/or managed by members of the Covered Populations.
  3. Fiscal year 2024 began on October 1, 2023, and ends September 30, 2024.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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