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Delaware to receive $5.5 million in federal funding for internet access projects

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Roman Battaglia
/
Delaware Public Media

Delaware is set to receive $5.5 million in federal funding to expand internet access through last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

$500,000 are earmarked for "digital equity" projects - efforts to provide Delawareans with the skills and technology needed to take part in the digital economy. That could include distribution of laptops or tablets to those without a reliable way to access the internet.

The remaining $5 million can be used for an array of infrastructure and workforce development purposes. National Telecommunications and Information Administration Digital Equity Director Angela Thai Bennett says the grants are intentionally open-ended to offer greater flexibility to address unique local challenges.

“You have geographic differences, you have all types of differences within communities that you have to be sensitive to," she said. "We’re making sure this isn’t a top-down approach, but one in which communities can help co-design what solutions look like for them.”

Bennett also noted that the grants are partially intended to improve the affordability of internet access, including in places where broadband infrastructure already exists.

She added that expanding internet access in low-income communities — public housing projects for instance — could open opportunities for higher-paying employment in remote work, while the workforce training projects funded with the grant could also focus on providing apprenticeships to residents of communities with limited internet access.

The grants do come with guardrails to direct infrastructure spending towards underserved communities. But other details, including the role of labor unions and major broadband providers in workforce development efforts, will be decided once Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information meets with stakeholders in the coming months.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.