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A Roadmap for Digital Equity Across America

Digital Success Summit
Co-hosted by Aspen Institute Latinos & Society and Miami-Dade County
Remarks of Alan Davidson
Assistant Secretary of Communications and Information 
National Telecommunications and Information Administration   
July 7, 2023 
As prepared for delivery 

Thank you for inviting me to discuss this historic moment and the Biden Administration’s focus on digital equity.

It is wonderful to be joined by so many of my federal colleagues who are champions of digital equity.

I’m grateful to our hosts at the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society for bringing us all together.

We all know why we are here. The Internet is now the essential tool for communications in our modern world. It is essential for access to work. Access to education. Access to healthcare. Access to justice.

And yet today, here in America in 2023, thousands of families in Florida and millions across the country lack access to a high-speed Internet connection, or lack the means and the skills to use it.

That’s about to change.

We have been talking about the digital divide in this country for more than 25 years. But thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we now have the resources to do something serious about it.

The law provides $65 billion in new funding to invest in a simple and ambitious mission: to connect everyone here in Florida and across America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service.

We are calling this initiative Internet for All, and we mean “all.” We only succeed if everyone is online.

Just last week, President Biden announced a milestone in the Internet for All funding from our $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment—or BEAD—program. Florida will receive over $1.1 billion to bring high-speed Internet service to every home and business within its borders.

However, it is not enough to simply deploy Internet infrastructure. A connection to a family’s home doesn’t help if that family can’t afford Internet service. And an affordable connection doesn’t help if they don’t have the devices, or the skills and know-how to be productive online, or if they can’t find content in the language that they speak.

That is why I am so excited about NTIA’s Digital Equity Program, and the $2.75 billion in funding we will be distributing thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. That means in the next 3-4 years we will likely spend more on digital equity than has been spent by the government in the history of digital equity.

I am thrilled to report that every state and territory has signed up to be part of our Digital Equity Program - we have 100 percent participation. Our thanks to many in this room, and many other stakeholders across the country, for working with us to get every state and territory on board.

Let’s take a moment to consider what this means. Five years ago, there were states that hadn’t paid attention to anything like digital equity. Now, every state has committed to having a digital equity plan by the end of this year. And they have planning money in hand to make it happen. These plans must ensure that everyone has the skills and tools necessary to reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

As I said, the government is going to spend more money on digital equity than it has ever spent before. To do this right, we need partners like the people in this room.

Trust is a vital, but often overlooked, ingredient in bridging the digital divide. Communities need to hear from trusted voices – and those voices will be from organizations like the ones in this room and from leaders like you.

In fact, states and territories are required to show us that they sought and incorporated input from stakeholders like you in their action plans.

Now is the time to make your voices heard. Get involved with the state planning process to ensure your communities’ needs will be met.

We feel the urgency of this moment because we know there are communities in need. Communities of color in particular, including Latino communities, have been disproportionately harmed by the digital divide.

According to NTIA’s Internet Use Survey Data, only 54 percent of Latinos used a desktop, laptop or tablet in 2021. And about a quarter of U.S. Latinos are smartphone-only Internet users.

Smartphones are not a substitute for an Internet connection that will allow children to do their homework, allow parents to join Zoom meetings for work, and grandparents to see their doctors through telehealth appointments.

So, this has to change. By 2030, one out of five workers will be Latino. Digital access and skills are essential to full participation in the U.S. economy.

Internet service is not a luxury – it's a necessity.

That’s why I’m thrilled to celebrate the launch of the Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success today. Those principles will help in reaching our shared goal: connecting everyone to Internet service, and providing the skills and devices they need to fully participate online.

I’m eager to learn more about the Principles and see them put into practice. These guidelines will provide a roadmap - for Miami and other cities, and for communities and organizations across the country - on best practices for digital inclusion.

In conclusion, I would note that this is a historic moment. It’s a once-in-a-generation moment of opportunity.

Generations before us did big things. They brought electricity and water to everyone in America. They built the interstate highway system.

This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment.

This is our opportunity to connect everyone in America to the tools they need to thrive in the modern digital economy.

It’s going to take a lot of work. We need everyone to do their part.

So thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your partnership.

And I look forward to working with everyone here to make this dream of the Internet for All a reality at last.