SOTN2023-05 Achieving Digital Equity: Filling In The Adoption Gaps
9:29AM Mar 12, 2023
Good morning, everybody. How are you? We are going to go ahead and get started. I think some more folks will be trickling in after. Now the Mr. Davidson has concluded his remarks. But thank you all for being here today. My name is Saul Hernandez, and pardon. And I'm excited to be here at the State of the net conference with all of you, and with, most importantly, our three incredible panelists who are working every day to Advance digital equity, and broadband adoption and communities across the country. As you know, in addition to funding provided by Congress, they gave us the emergency broadband Benefit Program and the emergency connectivity program. Last year, Congress passed the infrastructure act that prioritized digital equity in the bead program and provide a $2.75 billion for digital Equity Act programs. That also provided an additional $14.2 billion for the affordable connectivity program. This funding is now being deployed and it's critical, we get it right to ensure that every dollar delivers the greatest impact possible. Rubber now was meeting the road. And that's why today's discussion is so important. Our panelists today represent critical stakeholders who are already making digital equity and increased broadband adoption a reality. Their stakeholders who their stakeholders represent a leading skills training advocacy organization, a nationally recognized telecommunications expert with decades of public and private sector experience, and the leader of the nation's first ever State Office of Digital equity. So please join me if you would in welcoming Kate Spiker, who is the managing director of government affairs at the National Skills coalition, Deborah Latham, the president of Latham consulting, and Annette Taylor, who serves as the director of digital equity and literacy at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, though huge thanks for our panelists being here today and for our audience being here today. And because time is short, if we can get right into it, and would just love to sort of ask a table setting question to all of our panelists. And that is, how do you define digital equity? And why is achieving digital equity in communities across the country, so important?
I define digital equity as being different from equality. And equity means serving this the specific needs of the community of the individual, you know, we don't all start off on equal ground. And so it is being able to it's specified, it's local, it's localized, it's more than just being equal. You know, for example, you everybody probably has the right to go to public school. But we know in public schools, everybody does not get an equal education to their inequity. So that's my my definition of equity. Sorry.
So I appreciate that you started in part with what it's not that I'm gonna do the same thing. So to I think digital equity requires someone to be able to access broadband be able to access devices, and be able to access the skills that enables them to use those devices. And on top of that, I'd add that given the amount of need within the workforce for people to have digital skills, that we can break digital skills down into thinking about someone's ability to use devices at a basic level, that and then the industry specific need that they'll need for some of those digital skills that goes beyond someone doing something just on a smartphone
So there we go. Okay, so thanks to my colleagues for setting the stage there. I think we all know the definition of what I think NTIA or what is defined as vision inclusion and people having the right resources and tools that they meet, that meet them where they are, to be able to participate fully in a democratic society and be full participants in this digital economy. And I just want to say what North Carolina sees achieving that as we want our households to have 80% subscription in our effort to close the digital divide. That is part of our goal, and we want our racial minorities to achieve it at 80%. Right now, black households are at 64% Native Americans 57%. And you know, we have a large populate we have eight tribal communities in North Carolina. There's a lot of fear there among our Hispanic population who are at 68% So we're trying to get across all racial subgroups. 80% it. And of course, we want all of our households that have students in K through 12, to be at 100%. And so we believe that we'll be very close to achieving digital equity if we reach some of those goals.
So a follow up on that Annette and question for both you and for Deborah and Katie, please jump in, as well, Deborah's handbook, which by the way is available in print, by the store and also on, you can scan these QR codes that are on all of the chairs. If you would like it's an excellent, excellent handbook, I encourage you all to read it. But but the handbook that ever recently released highlights the fact that broad Bit Depth of broadband adoption gap is far greater than the broadband available availability gap. So according to the FCC, 90% of US homes have access to broadband at 25, three or faster, yet, only 77% of households subscribe to home broadband. And so, Deborah, your research found similar numbers. Why is it that you think that some folks who have access to broadband have not yet adopted the service? And what do you think the root cause of that delta is?
Well, I think, My God, I think that, you know, we can't let me backtrack, we talked about digital divides, we talk about skill divides, but before that, there was the Rift Valley of a divide of people who have not been a part of this society, you do not trust government. Okay. So I think the adoption issue boils down to income, we see their lower income people who do not subscribe, it boils down, and they tend to be people of color, they tend to be tribal people who have not adapted broadband. And it also boils down to whether or not the people consider it to be relevant. And so right now, you know, when I say so the digital divide the skill schedules, the skills divide, they just dumped more into a deep, deep rift that was already there. And we use terms like socio economic issues need to be determined. And we, but what does that really mean? That means that, you know, they just, they just stopped giving me the amount of money they were supposed to get for SNAP, I used to get $300 a month, I get $90 a month, okay? It means that I don't have access to decent health care, all of those things are going to impact whether or not people adopt. And so it's more than just socio economic it is, can I feed my teenagers on $91 a month? So we have to start thinking about this in really real terms. And then I think you go to adopt, and you can tell people how this is going to help you with these issues that are that impact your life and in a negative way. And the last thing I'll say, because I'm not the only person on this panel is trust. Okay, we say trust. But what does that mean to people who have already been sitting in the middle of this huge gap? You know, we're cutting off food stamps now, a while so we government doesn't care about me, you know, so you have to get past? And how do you get past that? You have to talk to people who have walked in the same shoes as the people who were trying to get to adapt, you have to have people who know the community who could navigate through it. So that's my rather long answer.
And then that me ready to speak to North Carolina being so rural. So availability, obviously, is the biggest challenge in some places, most places that are in rural areas. And of course, there's an underserved in some of the other areas. Of course, the cost is the fact is exactly what she's talking about. But then there's the relevancy again, people are getting a little bit past that, but I think it's always gonna be an issue, people actually thinking that it makes sense for them. You know, we have a lot of retirees in North Carolina, it's a great place to retire. But there are a lot of people were like, I don't need this. I mean, we know that our grandparents are just only only had it most of the time because their grandkids are coming to visit. And if they don't have Wi Fi, then we don't they don't want to be there. So I think that's part of what we're trying to address by determining what are the barriers, what make people feel safe, of course, that there's that safety issue, cybersecurity, which is one of the reasons that I'm very happy and proud that our office is in our Department of Information Technology, because we focus a lot on cybersecurity.
And Kate, any, any thoughts on on that on that question? Yeah.
Well, you know,
I was second burning my fat. Um, you know, I think that it if I can probably start jumping ahead to some of the other questions that you've got with it. It just makes me think of so many different pieces of the conversation. The first is that we're in DC, and we know that a lot of the policy decisions that we've made for decades have created the wealth gap and the inequality that we're seeing play out in some of the digital conversations, and it's reflected in where we see people's ability to access skills. It's reflected in that division that I that I explained between the basic skills that people need in order to use a smartphone. And then the ability to read software if they're on a construction site, or to use augmented reality, not just to play a game, but to repair something in an aerospace engineering play center. And so we're thinking about how we actually measure the impact of this across communities, both when someone can help their grandparents on the Internet, and then recognizing that that's not the full problem here. And we can adjust and get down to some of the more specific, you know, ways to address these inequalities and not just check the box and say that, you know, the the beef funding is good. Yeah.
All right. So we affordability came up in each of your in each of your answers. And it important to note that the creation of the affordable connectivity program provides a $30 subsidy to qualifying households. And important to note that a lot of ISPs Comcast, charter, Cox, among others, have created plans that cost $30 A month, essentially making the service free. And so do you think that what to that end? You know, what, what role does ACP play in, in one of the many ways that we can
well answer that little device, I think it's critical, it's crucial, it's imperative, both of the procedures, I can come up with ACP, we've got to increase awareness people. I mean, I know so many people didn't know if they never heard of it. So you got to get the word out there. It's there. That's imperative. And then the other thing is, you know, there are 48, let's say 48 million people that are eligible, but only 18 million are sambal. So that's the weirdest part of it. But the other part of it is also that we have got to really push Congress to extend the ACP, because if we don't, the consequences will be dire. And we can't let that lapse. You know, Congress takes his time. If it lapse, what happens during that period? It will be I told you that I don't trust government, they signed me up here. All they wanted was my information. Okay, so you can't let it lapse. Okay. And we need if it's critical, because this is as Davidson said, this is a monumental time, this is the only time that we're gonna get probably in our lifetimes to make this happen. So awareness and push Congress to really extend ACP. Yeah.
Go ahead and inserts I was I was gonna ask I mean to Deborah and and Annette, you're, you know, you are on the ground in all of North Carolina's 100 counties. And you all mentioned the role of trusted community partners. Talk about how digital navigators and in books, you know, organizations within the communities, whether that's churches, the Boys and Girls Club, you know, schools and libraries, etc. What role do they play in how how are you in North Carolina and your counterparts and other states working with those community partners to Deborah's point to to to increase visibility of the program?
Yes, we're creating that awareness. She's right awareness is really key is and also just understanding it. We know in North Carolina that they are 1.1 million people were actually eligible for it. We currently actually have 675,000 households that are on the affordable connectivity program. But we have a goal to get at least 1 million on because we know everyone is not going to get on, they're always going to be people who just don't trust it just don't want it just don't understand how it makes sense to them. But we're working with libraries, all of our community trusted partners. I mean, people know now that we are focusing on this, we've been out there, we've been in the news, they've been hearing things. So you know, they're looking at like, how can we get involved what we need to do. People are a little nervous about it. But we are hiring digital navigators, we actually got to have our own statewide digital navigation program. In our office. We're using ARPA buzz to invest in that we're going to launch a major PR campaign because we have to partner and we have to support the work that ISPs are already doing the ones who have these programs, the ones who are really making an effort, a lot. A lot of we get calls all the time. We have a toll free number, actually, but there's no one actually managing it. And we're making a change. We're hiring. Is anyone interested in coming in with that? We're hiring. But yeah, we're really trying to create programs and we're also looking to establish a hotline with our ANC 211 system because they already have the infrastructure in place. And so that program would not just create awareness, they're going to have digital navigators who build that trust. They have the missing the people and that's what I've been doing for the last night unless people calling in and you can't just get on the phone and say, okay, refer them to another number. They want to tell you this story. They want you to understand what's happened. I submitted my application I don't have Wi Fi so I had to send it in by mail. What happened to it when it went in? Can you call them because they have not answered Michael, there's a lot of different barriers and people give up on it. So we want to reduce that. eliminate that and mitigate that by putting people in place who care and people who actually want to help someone connect the dots.
It are some of your digital navigators in in North Carolina going to be regionally based in different parts of the state. Yeah, we will say in in, as well as Carolinian as an adopted North Carolinian we say from, from Murphy to Manu. And I imagine that you're going to have folks in all parts of the state who who have, who have deep relationships in these communities that they serve, right.
And that work is already taking place. We have an organization in Charlotte, which Charlotte is one of our largest, you know, municipalities in North Carolina, they have a center for digital equity, they already have a digital navigation program. They're also working with education superhighway, which has been very helpful. And I think other States obviously have this same opportunity. They have put the information out in the public schools in the public schools that actually have I think, Title Three, you know, students, they're working really hard on targeting students in the university system that have Pell Grant that get the failed grant, and I think is working because we actually saw an uptick. So that's in Charlotte, the western area, you know, there, there's nonprofits and the mountain areas. And then we have eastern North Carolina, which is a really huge rural area where there's a big concern there. And so we are working with churches, all across the state, really, but there's a huge church presence that has huge associations, and you're touching every single nonprofit. And so we're investing in those type of programs. But these are navigators. And of course, the libraries, we have a huge library of partnership. I don't want to go too far into the questions. But I will say that we're using some of our aquifers to invest in grant funded programs so that the nonprofit's and not just help us get the word out, but they can create their own desert navigation programs. And one of them is the Public Library system.
Data. Thank you, Katie, I wanted to talk about your report that your organization recently released. So last month, the National Skills Coalition, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released report on closing the digital skills divide it to is impressive and comprehensive, and provide several recommendations on how we all can collectively work toward delivering digital equity. So your report makes clear, and we've been sort of talking about this throughout the questions that we can't close the digital skills divide by operating in silos. And so if you would share with with our audience, your recommendations and the report's recommendations on the holistic approach that the coalition offered that involves government, private sector, in the stressed to community partners that we've been talking about.
Absolutely. And I, before I start, I want to offer two caveats. So the first is, as I'm nodding in agreement with everything you're saying about how incredible the report is, our research team put it together. So I want to tell you all the stories as Government Affairs side, but I'm gonna have to read all the numbers that that the author, Amanda and the folks from the Reserve board put together so. And the other thing that I'll build on before I get started, it is your point about breaking down silos, which is really where National Skills coalition sits. So we're based in as the name suggests, a coalition of the folks at the ground level who were really involved in helping someone navigate the process of education after high school of figuring out how to get and keep in progress within a job. And we also sit because of that coalition function at really a pragmatic spot where we try and identify what are the solutions that can work for businesses, particularly small and midsize companies who engage most with our public workforce system? And then how can we from that coalition really break down across silos, so we're hitting the kind of policy solutions that a community college for now I didn't write down the region's but for the central part of the state can, can connect with the nonprofits who are funded through higher education funding in the eastern or western part of the state. And it's that breaking down silos that I hear and when you're describing about a North Carolina that we find so critical talking about weather how someone gets any kind of skills. The good thing is with digital skills, we've been able to dig in and get some really accurate real time numbers about what businesses are hiring or today. So my colleagues looked at 43 million job postings from last year, which is different from how we usually you're able to evaluate the kind of skills needs that folks have, because we're usually looking at projections of labor market data, or we're looking at the past to say here's what investments for example from the Recovery Act 15 years ago had an impact on as we spent down that money. But the researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank and national skills were able to drill down into those real time job postings, and found that 92% of jobs today require at least one digital skill. So that means that almost every Every job that someone's hiring for is going to need them to have education that they're they're probably not getting in high school and for our for communities for communities of color are most much more less likely to be able to access through our posek Earth, excuse me for our secondary system at the public system. And so that means that people are walking into these trusted intermediaries looking for these digital skills. And it does really differ across states and across regions within states, whether we're talking about a community college, an Industry Association, a chamber, the nonprofits. And so what we like to think about is about that intermediary, and how we're supporting the ability of that intermediary to engage with businesses who are hiring workers, as well as some of the folks that are going to help people succeed in that job training program and in that job, so it's about supporting the community college, for example, ensuring that they've got a digital navigator that's connecting the businesses in the area and identifying the critical skills. And then it's about ensuring that some of the human human service providers are able to link up and help people get through that training program. So it's making sure that they have nutrition services through SNAP, it's making sure that they're able to continue to access health care services are continuing to access a bus or transportation route that they need or child care that they may need throughout that program. And the exciting thing about this is this is how we look holistically at people who need jobs across the needs. And so we've got the information about what works in the digital space and for digital skills. It's just about drilling down to the fact that right now, again, those 92% of jobs over time that could on average lead to a $23,000 increase in earnings per year for people to go from that no digital skill level to having one just one digital skill in those jobs.
Debra, you were you were nodding Did you get any any thoughts on that on that question? And Katie's organization for for Kira leafleting.
It's amazing. It's valuable. It's really fantastic. And I guess I guess my thoughts on Matt is we have to call it all to bobble get the skills you have to fall, span everything together, but eat out. It's in everybody's self interest to do eat it. It's not just for the underserved and the unserved because if 92% of our jobs require that you have one digital skill, yep. What does that need for icon? What does it mean for our GDP? What does it mean for us to be able to compete in the world on a large, ie I have this number.
Until talk, that's another number.
So it's not just upskilling, those who don't have skill, just because it's the right thing to do, which it is. But it's also we all need this. We need this for our country to thrive and to continue to be in world light. Absolutely.
Well, the number the first number that came to mind is that when we're talking about the tax base, then for families, that means that when someone's going from a job that doesn't require any digital skills to one that requires just one that's about anywhere from a two to $4,000 tax increase that that family will have, which means the community will then have those resources to support the public education and to support the nutrition services and additional things that help not just to your point the worker succeed, but businesses see that sustained growth.
Yeah, well, I just want to remind people of the folks who helped with our supplier of our food systems, farm workers have a lot of farm workers in North Carolina, but it's not just about them working out there. In the on the farm, they have to learn to operate those digital systems. Now, the irrigation system, that's all technology, and of course, they have opportunities to move beyond what they started. And we also have a large migrant, you know, we're present in a lot of immigrants coming in, and I'm getting phone calls from folks saying, Are there any grant funds available for us to get devices didn't ban households of people who just came in? So you know, I'm navigating a lot of different types of partners and relationships, because, I mean, our funds are not specifically or that in that way, we can't just give them out. We're not a corporation who might have discretionary funds, we have to have a process. But I do want to remind people that there's another population of folks who are contributing to our economy.
Well, but the ACP does provide a minimal amount of money for equipment. And then you do have some corporations and companies that are coming together to provide more support. So I think it's gonna have to be going back to the private, you know, government power, they're gonna ship because the businesses realized that they needed people in digital skill,
right? Yeah. And the $100 is very helpful, but a lot of people say what if the computer is at 400? You know, I still need the other 300. And then how's it gonna get maintenance when I have an upgrade? So sustainability is a big factor in this whole process.
Well, and that leads me to my next question. And you all sort of alluded to this in the previous, your answer to the previous question, but you know, working with network networks of of, of, you know, organizations within the coalition and and just writ large and in trying to deliver digital equity, what, what is in addition to private sector, you know, working to working to build out these networks taking advantage of the of the beat funds to do that into into edge out into either underserved or unserved areas, what, what is the, what do you see the role of the private the private sector in, in increasing not only adoption of broadband, but, but also, you know, when helping to close the digital divide, which, obviously, adoption ism is a big part of that, while asking it,
from conservatives for workforce and centers, or folks even understand what type of jobs are available, it's not just creating the awareness where they go into the community colleges, I mean, they could create programs in the high school. So they begin to understand, because since we're in a workforce crisis, you got to get people younger, we are in a skills based type of workforce where everyone doesn't have to go to a four year university to get the type of skills they need for these jobs. So I think that the private sector could help there because it's going to help them reach their goals on the the ARPA funds that we use boom, at the great brands, we just distributed about $280 million in great brands, to some providers in North Carolina. And they need to try to do this deployment fairly quickly. But I think the workforce shortage is a problem there. So how do you get people to understand that, you know, can you take this class here at the community college, and then I also rely on them for awareness of the ACP. So this kind of twofold, in addition to what they're already doing around, and I'm just kind of speaking to those groups, there are other corporations, and we have corporate funders who want to be in this space. There's a health care insurance company that's like, hey, we want to be involved. Everywhere we go around the state talking about the medical or health crisis. How do we get involved in this broadband space? And so because telehealth telemedicine is so important to them?
Kate, any thoughts on that? On that question? It? Wait, wait up your alley. Yeah,
well, just Yes. Yes, what your, um, I think it goes back to some of the strategies that we know work across how people find jobs when they find them. And when it doesn't work in our public workforce system, we're seeing the same things kind of repeated right now, without those intentional linkages between the companies that are hiring for digital skills, which going back to the report, right, that's all companies 92% of them, but so that they're engaged in the ability for someone to gain those skills, they're engaged in that process, they're spending the time investing in making sure the curriculum at the community college is meeting their needs. And that's often it's not so much just someone from a big corporation going in and having a conversation with a community college, it's bringing together five, six businesses in the local area that might need someone with a certain kind of welding skill. And they also are going to need the digital skills in order to do the quality control there. And it's because the community college is really only able to run a course when they've got 10 or 15 students in it even on the nonprofit side, then we see multiple companies coming together to work together to figure out what that curriculum looks like. And from a small and mid sized company could be the president, he's showing up to have some of those conversation. And so we look at that kind of over time commitment that we need from industry to be part of the conversation. And we see a lot of small and mid sized companies stepping up. And the cost of turnover for smaller mid sized company, when someone's been with the company for less than a year is still $25,000 And so by helping someone gain the skills, who works for the businesses, by engaging with partners who can help both new workers and the workers at that company, upskill that company can save some of that investment and maintain the continuity of having a worker who has been skilled up to their needs.
But and we have seen companies that are you know, stepping up to the plate and you know, Comcast just they're doing their Up program that they've been doing digital literacy skills training for well over a decade now. And so it's important to connect with those organizations who have expertise
and money pit. Yeah. And and I also add to that thinking about the workforce, nonprofits in the community like the Goodwill's right on because you know, that the corporate sector, a lot of times people just see them as business. And so for them to build that trust in that comfort for people to want to be a part of his process. They can connect with both side Goodwill's and urban leads and they are the ones who are helping to serve individuals by the incarcerated in reentry. So we must use that human capital as well.
Very good. Thank you. So Deborah, quite Should about your handbook who that, again is available in the back of the room and on the QR code here. It lays out best practices for state and local policymakers that I would imagine would trickle up to the federal level as well, to ensure that digital equity programs and interventions are equitable by design. And so you make several recommendations on digital skills programming, diesel navigators is as critical components for helping folks overcome a range of barriers to adoption. But if you if you would, can you talk about some of those recommendations and best practices, and how they're being put to touch and use across the
country, I won't go into detail about all of them as they are in in the book. But it's critical to have data and to have good debt and good maps, because you got to know where people are to build out the infrastructure, and you have to know where they are to be able to reach them to get them to adapt. So that's, that's critical. And we say that it's got to be equitable by design. And that's one of the critical proponents having the correct data. And then you have to have measurable objectives, you got to know, you gotta have somebody who you could hold accountable that you go to, and to make certain that your plan is actually being instituted. And we know that you got to make certain that it's affordable, that's the piece of the American, ACP, and it's available. And digital literacy, scaling is imperative. And just to hold awareness is very important. Those are all critical, critical things that we mentioned. And another thing that I would add, that I thought about actually later was, you know, enforcement's got a cut. So we know that the states and localities will be held accountable for how all this money is being spent. So there's a delicate balancing act that goes on to make sure that you have the information to support how the funds are being spent, but also to make such certain that they're not so onerous that people want to buy it late. I don't want to turn over this information to you. And so that's a delicate balancing act that I think you have to do in your planning this well. And as I say this is all on page four of I had
a net and sort of to, to to Deborah's answer. In North Carolina, you're leading a team that's building and implementing the state digital equity program, and again, the first in the in the nation to have the position that that you hold, what what, you know, what does that work look like that you and your team were undertaking? And again, the 100 counties across the state? And what are some of the opportunities and challenges that you're that you're facing?
Thank you for that. So I am very proud of North Carolina and the the work that's been done and how our administration led in this effort. The challenge, okay, so we have an obligation to get as many people as connected as possible, as fast as possible. And we have an opportunity, and the opportunity is meeting people where they are. And the challenge is meeting people where they are, you know, is it's a matter of, again, creating that awareness, but also creating the space for them to give input. And in our digital equity plan, that's exactly what we're going to do. We're involved like every other state, and the next. Now we're kind of at six months. So we feel kind of rushed, right? We want to get this right. But we also have a digital equity plan that is due to NTIA in October, anybody wants to extend that I'll need and we'll accept that. But we're putting together a full Community Engagement Plan with all the covered populations. We're going to do that in a very strategic way. Of course, we have a very strong facilitation guide. We're working with consultants who are going to help us with that, as well as writing the plan. And I think that it's important that you ask the right questions. We have a lot of business sessions planned and now organizations are calling us ask Can they be part of our listening sessions? Not just part one, but can they facilitate one just with their population. So those who know about us are kind of making it easy for us. But we're also doing regional sessions. So we can make sure that the anchor institutions are involved. The local government coordination is there, though state. So it's not just about our state agencies being involved, which they are a huge part of the solution because they're already serving these populations. But we got local government who needs to be there. They're the ones who know a lot about what's going on with the infrastructure, but they also are serving those people at the local level. And so they know what the barriers are. I was just actually talking to my sister in law yesterday. She's Director of Social Services in Wilmington. And so she was saying, Oh, we already sit down we have a computer lab so that when people come in to apply for AI on food stamps, or even child support, we just tell them if you want to go over there and, and self serve, you can do that. And we tell them all the programs because a lot of them feel uncomfortable with the right. And she says, but then they all went have a barrier. I don't want to put my information out there. I don't know what you're collecting on me, oh, I have this problem. Somebody might find this app, there's a lot of stuff, but they have people she said, We'll sit right down with them, and walk them through it and tell them what they have to put in and what they don't have to put in. And that's where the robot did and navigate. But being in that type of place. I was really impressed to know that because I'm thinking more about libraries or even the community college. We know the library is that place in every community. Everyone is welcome. Right. And not everyone's going to such a service. But again, it's back to meeting them where they are.
And so when we you mentioned, you know, putting together the the state digital digital equity plan that's due to NTIA Yeah. How are you? How were you and your team? In North Carolina had the Department of Information Technology help? How are you not only engaging with with stakeholders on the ground and in the 100 counties? But But how are you interacting with your federal partners at NTIA, you know, efthimios are going to be in federal program officers will be in every state. And we just Just curious for for this repel? have those conversations and how how, how that whole skill?
Yes, we meet with our federal program officer every week. Thanks everyone week or every other week, but definitely they're available to us. They want to be supported, we really appreciate that. They're not pushy. And so they're available to either come to any of our convenience, or they will host one for us. And we like that, but not just that. We we may have questions like we don't have this all figured out, everybody's trying to understand and figure it out. And so when we have questions, they're available to answer questions, there's a lot going on with the you know, risk management issues. We just got to get this right. So it's been very helpful to have a team there is that regional director and even the Regional Director with the federal program officers, they, they kind of give that federal program officer Alex, he will but he was here earlier, the autonomy to work with us and to answer our questions, and then to come back because many of them are learning as well. So we're all learning together. So I think it's been a really great relationship that we're building. They know our plan. In North Carolina, we kind of put together our own outreach plan, and we made sure that we, you know, crossed all the T's and dotted the eyes so that when they came to us and say, Hey, we want to help you lose weight, like we got it, this is what I was looked like, right? And it was like, Oh, that actually was good, like, so you know, but we received their feedback, we want them to be right there at the table with this. And so we feel like we have a really good robust plan for how we're going to get feedback, we're gonna do surveys, we're actually creating our own website so that folks who did We did not meet in person, they'll have a way to provide input, we already have a nice website, NC broadband.gov. And on that website, there are a lot of resources there. But we're going to beef that up, because we want people to know how to get involved with us. But we have a webinar coming up tomorrow. So I'm gonna have to get back soon. But in our webinar, we're going to tell everyone about what the process and so we have been pushing this out through press release and every single stakeholder that we already have information. And so we are planning to make sure that as many people as possible that want to be involved, can be involved. We'll create that plan. Of course, as we draft that plan, our goal is to have our plan drafted, I think by August, so that we'll have the one month to give the public feedback to get it. Maybe it's by July, because August is the month. I think we need it public feedback. We need all of September to actually fix it, update it based on the guidance and advice. And then of course, we'll need to get it to our governor because, you know, he's, you know, he's the man he needs to see it. And then we'll need to submit it in a timely manner. You know, we tried to go above and beyond so we'll try to probably have I was in earlier, although I was asking for an extension.
And Deborah and Katie doot doo, do you and your in your bestie Deborah Katie, at death the National Skills coalition work with federal partners NTIA MCC, and and in what, in what capacity and how do you find the support and and conversations back and forth with them?
We work with them in two capacities. So the first is more from the external affairs Government Affairs side. We work a lot with helping our networks understand so the community colleges, the public workforce practitioners, the businesses with whom we work about what's happening and how they can hook into the work that the states are doing. When we think about the first part of the conversation, we're talking about the workforce challenge that all this has. We have a whole silo within Publix. ervices have a public workforce system that has resources, they're stretched, they're under invested, they're probably not the place to tap to look for all the solutions for some of these challenges until Congress fixes the way that we invest in it, but but they are required partner in order to feet to really see success in some of this, because you can tap into the infrastructure, you can trap tap into some of the funding. And so it's about bringing together all those entities. And that's the place where we've been working with NTIA, the, at the federal level, the other side is some of the technical assistance that my colleague who authored the report are working on across our policy team to work with states and dig into what are some of the barriers for connecting across the broadband office, and the workforce and higher education systems within the state and helping them come together to have and this is what and that I was struck by everything that you were sharing is so pragmatic, and practical, and detailed and missteps. And that's really what what we're trying to help make the connections from bringing the other partners who are not the connection experts and not the digital experts together in order to build on that expertise that we see in a nets office with the workforce capacity that we know exists at the local and state level as well.
Do you have any? Yep. Okay. Any follow up to that question, sort of any any advice, and this is for each of you, you all represent different constituencies and, and have different areas of expertise. Any any sort of advice for for an NTIA warm FCC with respect to the Administering of these programs in and as Deborah alluded to this once of lifetime investment? In in we had not only increasing adoption, but but also we're not not only increasing access, but also increasing adoption
for me, oh, I'm still keen, I just what I would say is, either I spent a lot of years in Gabon in an extreme union and in lieu of years in Washington, DC, and my advice to NTI, ugly, our own diplomatically would be that I know, it's the flip side of Rogers said, I know that you have to be responsible that fraud, waste and abuse does not occur, but do not overdo it in overregulate this to the extent that is is a deterrent for people to the people in stage to participate in probably that once a nation, that minty Aidan hat should should be cautious about. But on that note, I'd say look, I'm super optimistic that NTI is going to make this happen. Even just heard Davidson speak. And he's certainly excited about because this this, this is our time, this is it. So and they are the experts, but just don't. Don't overdo it. Don't be too Washington don't be too deal. kradic. Stuck. One hit any thoughts on that?
I think one of the successful things that we see happening with NTI right now is collaboration with other federal agencies and sub agencies. And I think that's really critical. And they released guidance around some of the connections between workforce practitioners maybe six months ago, that was informed really closely by some of the job policy plans that Departments of Commerce and Labor and education have been working together on. So that we're thinking about digital skills, that someone has access to being a pathway not just to a job, but to a good job that supports business growth, and that individuals role and those connections and breaking down the silos modeling at the federal to enable and support it happening in the way that we know it can and is at the state and local
interest in what one more Sam, because I do have great competence and NTIA I actually did. Previously, some review of applications that they've received. I like can't go into details of it. But the review was thorough, it was compassionate, and they wanted people to be able to get the funds and to succeed. And that's that's where they started. Yeah.
I'll just touch on two points. Our state just like others, completed the application for the digital equity planning funds. Very grateful that were received those, their support and technical assistance was, you know, I mean, second to none. We were very grateful as some of them were figuring it out as well. And as I said, I think as understanding the role between them and NIST, and back to your point about partnerships, I would say just to continue improving that, because it makes a difference for the states who are delivering these programs. And same with FCC. I mean, we're still trying to understand the data. Obviously everyone is but understanding and listening to us as the people who are at the state level deploying it We are executing on this plan. And trying to understand, I don't know if anybody else has noticed this in the States, but in your state, but the enrollment in the affordable connectivity program looked like it was declining for us over a few months. And so since you know, it's our goal to get it as high as possible, we were like, oh, what's going on here? Why is this going down, I think we're back down to maybe 636 40, that people just fall out that did not restart about what's happening, we started understanding a bit more, because we have so many different things going on, we can't just study every intricacy of it. But as we try to understand it for ourselves and the way we want to guide and advise on policy, and even encourage our own, you know, policy makers on how to help sustain it, we just want to understand all those things. And I think being a part of understanding that is really big for us. So I just continue, I just asked to continue empowering us as you're becoming empowered to do stuff.
So we all share the the goal of universal connectivity and and the the purpose of all of this money at the bedspread made available at the federal level that's flowing to the states and localities is to deliver that. And so we know what we started out defining digital equity. But how is digital equity going to evolve? Once we once we are able to get the vast majority the 100% connectivity or as close to that as possible? And and as a follow up to that? What do you think the next set of challenges will be that we'll encounter as we bring more and more households online?
Looking at me like this, because
this is what I brought up is a very, very futuristic question. Because right now we're sort of at the basement level of this. And so we're just trying to make it up to the first floor. So we can look out and have a better understanding of what the lay of the land is, I think so it's really hard to predict, know what the future looks like. But I know what we have to do today to get to that future. And they're the things that we discussed today, you got to get people signed up. And once we do all of these things, which I think we are absolutely capable of doing. Once we do those things, then we also know that technology assists not sleep. And you know, while we are marching forward to get people signed up, we have to know how we will continue to bring people to elevate them or to meet the new developments in technology. Yeah. So I guess I think we're still at, you know, 10 101, or broadband one, a one right now.
There are always going to be some type of Dubai, because there's going to be people who don't trust or we're going to have on new citizens who take a while to trust our government systems. And then there's gonna be not just the fear of their, the privacy and all of that, but just the relevancy in the knee. So there'll be some divide, but I think that we're moving the needle on that. But as it evolves, more people being online, there's more of a need for cybersecurity, obviously, and then just protection of their data and how to do that, how to make people feel comfortable with that, and what type of systems are being put in place. So I think as this connectivity equation evolves, I think there's going to be more to build into it, but definitely starting with, um, cybersecurity and privacy. Yeah.
And Katie, if this is what your organization does with the National oscilloscope coalition, and so was Mick Fisher. So do you think I mean, I imagine your response would be that, you know, we will continue as to and that's point and Deborah's point, you know, technology is going to continue to evolve, more and more skills are going to be required. More investments will need to be made in job in job training in organizations like yours will continue to sort of facilitate that. But any, any thoughts?
What, so that's absolutely true. And I'd returned to the idea of breaking down silos. The the infrastructure bill was just passed. We're not going to be talking about that at the federal level or in Congress except for the bickering about its implementation. But at the coming up in front of Congress, we have a bunch of opportunities in order to embed access to digital equity and digital skills within those reauthorization. So we were talking about the SNAP program. The Farm Bill being up for reauthorization this year, means that there's an opportunity to leverage the investment that goes through your farm programs to support someone's education and training, and that then they could use those funds to support access to digital skills, our public workforce stent is governed by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that's been up for reauthorization. And so I think and put, again, be a really credible place to embed some of the the things that we know are really useful both in enabling funds to be used to support access to devices, that flexible support service funds can help someone access and connect as well as having access to the skills because it is that whole trifecta of of a snowball, when you know that the the programs are working together. And then the other thing I'll say, to the speed of innovation happening, channeling again, the author of the report, Amanda, she likes to say that across the pandemic, we saw 10 years worth of technological change in 10 months. And for workers who don't are not connected to a four year degree, that means that they're then going back to try and figure out how to keep those skills and keep the job that they've had. And so that really means leaning into business and small business in particular awareness about their needs. Over time, we can have surveys, we can have the data that tells us that that's critical. It's also critical with pairing together the voice of a business at a local level, to really understand what are the specific skills they need. So we're we're making these events, investments, yes, I absolutely support that we need more of them in both workforce and helping people access and reach towards to deliver digital equity. It's also about making sure that we're investing in the right places now, so that we can then make the case for how important and how well, these investments can impact states local areas, and people have left them been left behind by intentional policy decisions that we've made.
Thank you, Vic, we have a couple of minutes left. If if open up to folks in the audience for a couple of questions. Can we go David?
So we're delighted that this shutdown option found curious lady the what's it called net? You economist seems to have dedicated a lot of money for the rural chuckling going to child but the adoption challenge sees a lot of people keep they'll be off to too many that will North Carolina have other resources are when you read the resources, or other resources dedicated is measured, your physical activity is encouraged if it were not trained in other sheets Happy Go here to buy another nature. That
Well, we hope there will be some flexibility would be we would like to, but also with digital equity funds that are coming along with that you're right. It's not as much but we're trying to leverage our partnerships. Across the state, there's a lot of philanthropy that's come our way that's talking to us about considering collaborative funding was collaborative. And we actually want them to try to match some of what we already have. My office, you know, from the ARPA funds has $50 million that we're, you know, working with, is still not as much as what was on the infrastructure. But we are being wise about how we invest it and how we invest in impactful programs that can be a replicable and that people see as something they would want to invest in. And so we hope that's where philanthropy comes in. We hope that's where corporate philanthropy comes in. And also that it will show the type of impact that public policymakers will want to
build upon certain
things the Senate never isn't at barbers will dominate. And I was just at CSET surgery security where he attacked for a shadow. What is that? What is my position with this and we're looking at is that the buy between the added add nuts row here is Urbanears stuff, the lack of retailers to digital the way my question is, should we have like a digital service for calling your first Academy for digital services? How do we get us out of the sector, it AWS, Salesforce to support or incentivize youth in these areas so that they can support our trade competitiveness and as security and we have this China, but also all that argument, a lot of work in Africa, some work for us to support democratic partners that leaving the stain Westergaard's and we have this helical was fine in Africa, China, Russia, there are not an interest.
I don't know who was best to answer that question.
Right to question.
Well, I will provide an example that I think anyone could build upon, or replicate in actually expanded to what you're defining, and that is the remote learning workgroup that happened in North Carolina, a lot of corporations came together to, to invest in programs to help with that. And so we had a state agency that kind of executed across the state, and they built these tech teams, and the tech teams were really younger people and those sectors were the younger people know so much about technology. that they, you know, they kind of have the wherewithal, they're teaching the seniors in the community or even teaching some of their own teachers on how to use some of this and how to understand, you know, certain things, certain apps. And I think that's really gone a long way in helping people feel the connectivity, especially, you know, our senior population, those who feel isolated. And I think that they were a big part of, you know, kind of strengthening that isolation or improving upon that. And now people are looking at that, and people saying, Hey, we've got to build upon this, we can expand this, this can be more, I think corporations are looking at and saying, Okay, we're all back online. We're all back in person. But what's next? What do we do next? So I actually am going to take that as kind of some recommendation. I don't know what the second question, but was that? International? Yeah.
And it was in the first world. Debating not going, is that yes, and read what you just described, there's numerous core programs that are supported by preparation for national service. And within our current structure, I think part of what the solution is, again, just to go back to the fact that we started with, right 92% of jobs require some digital skills. So let's just say it all. And, and so what we need to embed throughout all of the ways that we help someone connect to a job into skills is by having some of the other programs that already exist, be connected to the digital needs, instead of sitting within the 20 year, 15 years ago, since the last reauthorization of some of those big packages, our core networks, apprenticeship, helping someone at a technical or community college access these skills in a program that's not necessarily intentionally right now connected to how someone's getting digital skills. And then the one other thing I'll say, from domestic and the connections, particularly with businesses, NSC, and we're doing this in large part with some of the person power from Comcast and other corporations is bringing together a list of fortune 500 companies who are invested in this idea of digital equity is a way that we were talking about it earlier on about the adoption, it's about the devices, it's about skills, and having enabling those private partners to use that bully pulpit to connect to whether it's it's a core system or an innovation that's going to work in North Carolina, or in a foreign country.
Thank you. And sir, we we have time for one more, one more short question place.
Okay. Okay. Best case scenario, we've got the workforce, we've got the American made material digging trenches, to put fiber optic line
on B got them out west glide small rural communities. On in the best case scenario, how long would it take to reach there's a further shower? Two years, five years? Yeah.
That's a good question. No, that's a good question. I hope it'll be two years. No, but I mean, who knows? On me, it could, obviously could go as far as five years, I mean, given the workforce shortage, so I think addressing that would be a part of the solution. How would I say addressing that, in learning how to attract people who would be interested and have the skills but I think it's a matter of, you know, the providers making it plain that there's a need, and here's how, you know, working with us can be, you know, really valuable and beneficial, not just to you, but you know, to closing the digital divide. So I really can't say what the best scenario would be. But our hope for I know our great grasses, two years, yeah, and some of that's already happening.
So, but I was just reading wistfully. Again, it goes back to digital skills and labor because I've read one of the New England states was having a hard time just getting workers to deploy to the actual world. So distance all sorts of North High intertwine. Will it take two years or it might take more if we don't have a skilled workforce, that to be able to dig up the ground, to look to lay the table and the
supply chain issue? Yeah,
I mean, I can I can tell you that that, you know, Comcast, charter Cox and other ISPs are excited and are or are doing building out to these to these harder to reach areas as quickly as they can, but but, you know, laying the laying the fiber connecting the fiber, dealing with different topography and geography is challenging, but it is the work these are these are high skilled, highly skilled jobs that are that are required to make these connections. And so there is a there is a willingness and an eagerness on the part of ISPs and connect as many households as quickly as possible.
And also the Act mandates that you have to start with the unserved communities first, that is one of the priorities of the act itself. Yeah. It's unserved and then unserved and underserved. So so they so it is prioritized
Okay, so very Thank you, sir. Barry, last very, very last question I just like to ask this of folks. We covered a lot of ground today. Briefly, we'll start with the net, Deborah, and then Katie, what's the one message that you want our audience to leave with? today?
All right, I'll just keep it simple. There's so many messages that I have in my hand, but I will say partnership and listening. I mean, partnerships is very key to this, we all know that, but listening to not just listening to the constituents, listen to your consumers, and listening to the state
adoption, you die to get people to sign up merely to make that happen. They have to be aware of their and you need to know where they are. So you have to do the math. And so I think it's critical, we can't succeed about that adoption, we're gonna get deployment, but we can't receive without a gosh,
there we go. By both echoing the the expertise that you both shared on the panel, and these last comments, I would add to it to say that, again, 92% of jobs, all jobs require digital skills. That means both getting the folks who are gonna dig the trenches and lay down the fiber as well as the folks that are going to be working at that nonprofit that's going to help someone train up with the basic skills, they need to click on the computer and help them access their their FNS benefits. So I would say that, again, the partnership and connections are critical. And for folks who want to hear my student colleagues voice in her writing in the report, instead of my summary of it, you can find it on our website at National Skills. coalition.org. Thank you.
And so thank you all for being here today. And for being patient with us. We're a couple of minutes over, I think has demonstrated. These are three incredible thought leaders in this area. And I hope I can speak for the three of you in that. I would imagine they'd be more than happy to serve as a resource to you and your work as you go back. And so please don't hesitate to reach out to any of us. If we can be thank them. Thank you