Lawmakers urge action on accessibility

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This week in ‘What’s New in Digital Equity’ – our weekly look at government digital equity and broadband news – we have a number of interesting articles, which you can access with the links below – below:

LEGISLATIVE DEMAND REGULATORY ACTION ON DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY

Thirty-two House Democrats gathered to demand in a letter that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) addresses digital accessibility issues by publicizing regulations and other administrative measures.

In the letter, addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the DOJ’s recent guidance release – March 2022 Advice on web accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act – was congratulated. However, it should be noted that while the DOJ issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2010 to clarify ADA regulations, the notice was withdrawn in 2017 by the Trump administration and a proposed rule no longer exists. has never been published.

Although the DOJ has stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to digital spaces such as websites, there is currently a lack of specific requirements or compliance standards in regulation.


The group behind the letter believes that the DOJ needs to take further steps to improve the website’s accessibility. The letter says access to digital services for people with disabilities “is not just a luxury or a convenience, but a necessity.”

The letter highlights the need for the DOJ to provide clarification to address this issue and recommends the following actions under ADA Titles II and III: Widely distribute updated regulations that include accessibility and usability standards compliant with Section 508 requirements and inclusion of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1; Systematically implement the ADA nationwide by clarifying that Title III regulations apply to websites, online systems, mobile applications, and other forms of ICT, even if there is an alternative in nobody ; update sub-regulatory guidelines regarding digital accessibility, for example, technical assistance guidelines which have not been updated since 2003; and pursuing additional settlement agreements on this topic through the Civic Access Project to advance accessibility and provide clear policy guidance.

“As new and emerging technologies continue to enter the market and rapidly begin to be integrated into our daily lives, additional regulatory and administrative actions by the DOJ are essential to creating a truly equitable society,” the letter states.

The recommendations are intended to align with the mission of Executive Order 13895 and President Biden’s Executive Order 14035 to center equity in the work of the federal government. (Julia Edinger)

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR USDA RURAL HIGH SPEED INTERNET PROGRAM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened applications for a program that ultimately aims to invest $1 billion in broadband infrastructure for rural America, the agency said. announcement.

The initiative is called the Reconnect Program, and it will distribute the money in the form of loans and grants. Program funds are made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act, which is dedicating $65 billion to connecting all Americans. The application deadline is November 2.

The breakdown of that money is that there is $150 million available for allocation, $700 million for grants, and $300 million for loan/grant combination. It’s also not the first round of funding to be made available through the ReConnect program, as the initiative has already invested $656 million for rural communities across 33 states and territories. A second round of funding set $850 million to work similarly for rural areas in 37 states and territories.

More information about the ReConnect program is available via the USDA website. (Zack Quiintance)

TENNESSEE ANNOUNCES $447M IN BROADBAND INVESTMENTS

Tennessee has allocated nearly $447 million for broadband infrastructure investments in the state, officials say. announced.

The state estimates the money will help bring the internet to more than 150,000 homes and businesses that are currently unconnected. Funding for the grants comes in part from funds allocated to Tennessee by the federal government under the U.S. bailout. Additionally, about an additional $50 million in Tennessee is spent on broadband adaptation and digital literacy.

The money will come from the state government to the counties through grants. In total, Tennessee received 218 total grant applications, which will ultimately grant 75 of those applications.

A full list of money recipients can be found via Tennessee Online Ad. (Zack Quiintance)

FCC EQUITY AND DIVERSITY COUNCIL TO HOST DIGITAL SKILLS SYMPOSIUM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a to remark to announce that its Communications Equity and Diversity Council and Media Office will host a symposium and town hall on digital skills gaps on September 22.

The event will offer information on actions being taken in the public, private and non-profit sectors to advance digital literacy. The symposium portion of the event will focus on the Digital Equity Act, the Affordable Connectivity Agenda, and other issues to explore how best to identify underserved populations and expand digital equity. The town hall portion will explore the collaboration between these different sectors and the value of community training programs.

The event will be publicly available on the FCC’s website 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET. (Julia Edinger)

There was much debate on California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Proposed Decision 20-02-008 prior to the September 15 voting meeting. In short, the decision determines whether recipients of grants under the Affordable Connectivity Program and similar federal grant programs would also receive maximum grants under the California LifeLine program, or whether state funding would be capped when a certain amount of federal aid is received.

Proponents of the ruling believe it will help limit the profits that service providers receive, while opponents have said they fear it will limit access to communications for low-income households.

At the September 15 public vote meeting, the decision was deferred to a future committee meeting scheduled for October 6. (Julia Edinger)

GUIDE TO THE FEDS OFFER FOR THE CREATION OF STATE BROADBAND OFFICES

The federal government internet for all the initiative published a new resource for states working to create broadband offices.

The 19-page document — dubbed the Checklist for Creating an Office — contains a checklist of what the state needs to do to create a broadband office, as well as a set of best practices. The guide also provides examples of existing state offices that have done a good job with their training and work.

This guide comes as state governments across the country structure their broadband work. This preparation is especially important right now, as the federal government continues to funnel a historic amount of money down through the states for community broadband work.

According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report last year, all 50 states now have active broadband programs, though the nature of those programs varies. At the time of this report’s publication — which was June 2021 — there were 13 states that did not yet have a broadband office. (Zack Quiintance)

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