April saw the introduction of The Digital Equity Act of 2019, seeking to reduce the digital divide and the homework gap. If passed, the Act would create and implement digital equity plans, launch digital inclusion projects, and support evidence-based research. To accomplish this, the Act would fund federal grants, distributed by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration, to support projects that align with this initiative. The annual grants, in the amount of $250 million, would fund physical infrastructure and programs such as digital literacy and skills education to low-income populations. It would also seek to improve the online accessibility of social services for individuals with disabilities.
In the regulatory space, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested public input on the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework. The WRCF is a voluntary wireless industry commitment intended “to promote resilient communications and situational awareness during disasters.” This Public Notice [PS Docket No. 11-60] solicits for further input after the last round of comments that examined post-disaster action reports for the 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons. The Public Notice states “In addition to stakeholders in the communications and emergency response sectors, we are interested in hearing from industry and government bodies at all levels, and particularly from consumers, including people with disabilities and those who may be disproportionately affected by communications outages, as well as from any other interested stakeholders.”
In Wireless RERC news, we convened a Leadership Luncheon, Contexts of Connectivity, on April 25, 2019. The luncheon topic focused on how smart connected devices enhance access to public and private environments and support the independent living of people with disabilities. In congruence with that topic, the Wireless RERC also hap the opportunity to speak with representatives from AT&T and G3ict about the release of their Smart Cities for All Inclusive Innovation Playbook. The news release about the initiative and its resources are featured in this issue.