American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) & Digital Equity

Ryan Kelly - Digital Services Manager

Josh Eichen - Senior Economic Planner




Presentation Goals

Clarify ARPA guidance regarding use for digital access / broadband

Outline potential vehicles for ARPA spending

American Rescue Plan (ARPA) Funding Breakdown

Source: Brookings Institute

Total ARPA Allocations:

Signed into law March 11, 2021

Public Health Emergency

Respond to the public health emergency

Premium Pay

Provide premium pay to employees providing essential work

Revenue Loss

Provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue


Invest in sewer, water, or broadband infrastructure

MA Coronavirus  State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds ​

Guidance on Allocations

Total MA State

& Local Funds: 

State $ 5.3B

Local $ 3.4B (50% received May '21

                       50% to be delivered May '22)

$ 8.7 billion

Funds have to be obligated by December 31st, 2024 and spent by December 21st, 2026 

  • Support public health expenditures, by, funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, and certain public health and safety staff
  • Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector
  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sector
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet

State & Local Allocations:

ARPA Guidance on Allocations

Source: US Treasury Fact Sheet, 5/10/21

Broadband Infrastructure Guidance

US Departmentartment of the Treasury guidance for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds 

"Infrastructure investments in areas that lack wireline connection that reliably delivers 25/3 service"


"Prioritize middle mile and last mile connections"


"Prioritize projects that use modern technology delivering 100/100 service"


"Recipients are encouraged to pursue fiber optic investments"

Demonstate COVID Impact

Guidance on  "Reliably"

State and Local Allocations

Broadband Infrastructure Guidance 




Treasury FAQ, Updated 6/24/21


"Treasury’s Interim Final Rule provides that investments in broadband be made in areas that are currently unserved or underserved... lacking a wireline connection that reliably delivers minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload"

"The use of “reliably” ... provides recipients with significant discretion to assess whether the households and businesses have access to wireline broadband service that can actually and consistently meet the thresholds of at least 25Mbps/3Mbps—i.e., to consider the actual experience of current wireline broadband customers. Whether there is a provider serving the area that claims to offer speeds that meet the 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed thresholds is not dispositive"

Digital Literacy

Called out in Federal Guidance


"Recipients may use funds to provide assistance to households facing negative economic impacts due to Covid-19, including digital literacy training and other programs that promote access to the Internet."


Treasury FAQ, Updated 6/24/21



"In view of the wide disparities in broadband access, assistance to households to support internet access or digital literacy is an eligible use to respond to the public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic, as detailed above."

Cyber- Security

Called out in Federal Guidance



Treasury FAQ, Updated 6/24/21


"Recipients may also use funds for modernization of cybersecurity, including hardware, software, and protection of critical infrastructure, as part of provision of government services up to the amount of revenue lost due to the public health emergency."

ARPA Summary

Infrastructure investments in areas that are underserved by reliable high speed internet.


Offset Tax Reduction


Debt Service

Digital literacy and connectivity programs

Stabilization Funds

Other demonstrate disproportionate COVID impact

Guiding Principles for State and Local Government

Potential Principles for Local Government

Remove affordability and adoption barriers that prevent universal access to reliable and high speed internet (100/100).

Augment the capacity of key stakeholders such as IT Departments, School Districts, Libraries, Community based organizations, and municipal staff to address the digital divide

Ensure all residents who desire to improve their technology literacy have a pathway to educational opportunities at a range of skill levels, offered in community appropriate languages and settings.

Promote competition among internet service providers offering broadband service.

Recognize the importance of proactively investing in cybersecurity measures.

Build the nascent capacity of local government and community groups in the area of the digital divide and digital infrastructure.

Catalyze additional investment by municipalities and private sector actors to improve affordability, reliability, and speed of the internet; as well as market competition for broadband service.

Potential Principles for State Government

Augment ARPA funds made available to municipalities for those municipalities who have been hit hardest by COVID (health and unemployment) and likely have competing needs for funds in other areas that may outweigh digital divide issues.

Who's Job is it to Solve the Digital Divide?



School Districts

IT Directors

Housing Authorities

Healthcare Providers

Workforce Boards

Community Based Organizations

Elected Officials

Private Sector

The State???

Future Investments

Federal Infrastructure Bill

Federal Broadband Bill

State IT Bond Bill

Various Federal Grants under NTIA



Diagnosing the Problem

Draft Research Findings from Chelsea, Everett, and Revere Digital Access Planning Process


~19% of
Chelsea, Everett, and Revere households lack internet service.​


of survey respondents do not believe their internet service is affordable.


of survey respondents have had to cancel or change their internet subscription because it is too expensive​

Is it Affordable?

Sources:  US Census ACS 5 Year, 2019. 

MAPC Community Digital Needs Assessment 2021

"Necesitamos que el costo del internet sea mas justo


We need the cost of the internet to be fairer"

Device Access 

How accessible are devices?

of Chelsea & Revere households have no computing device at all


of survey respondents disagree with "People in my household always have access to a computer if needed."

About 60%
of Chelsea, Everett and Revere households with internet lease a router from their service provider



Are routers adequate?


Device Source, Computers: US Census ACS 5 Year, 2019.  Device Source, Routers:  MAPC Survey - 6/29/21

"Our internet speed greatly improved after we bought our own router; the routers provided by our provider don't seem to be very good"

Literacy in Chelsea & Revere

Using Technology

of survey respondents agree with "I feel confident in my ability to use a computer/laptop/Chromebook

of survey respondents agree with "I feel confident that I am able to resolve issues related to my internet connection"

Ensuring Functioning Equipment

Evaluating Information and Privacy Risks

Anecdotal information gleaned from stakeholder conversations indicates that there are serious concerns related to privacy, particularly among the immigrant population

Source:  MAPC Survey - 5/26/21

Internet Subsidies

Thousands of families in Massachusetts are eligible for Internet Essentials and the Emergency Broadband benefit fund


Comcast Internet Essentials Plan offers basic internet service for $10 / Month to income eligible households (SNAP, Free or Reduced Lunch, etc)



Only 60,000
households have taken advantage of EBB since May 16 2021

Source:  Universal Services Administrative Co, National Center for Education Statistics, MAPC Digital Access Survey 6/29/2021

"سمعت بأن شركة كومكاست توفر انترنت مجاني لأصحاب الدخل المحدود .هل هذا صحيح؟


I heard that internet service companies provide free internet to people with limited income. Is this true?"

Legacy of Cable

Image Source:

Why is it this way?

The cable infrastructure at the household level is likely impacting service and reliability.


A lack of competition, shrinking cable service revenues, and a lower income service area are likely disincentives for investment from the private sector.


At the household level, individuals are likely using outdated or ineffective routers and devices.


Internet subscribers may not have the confidence or technical skills to trouble shoot internet speed or function issues.


Larger households who may need faster speed packages may be cost burdened and unable to afford those plans.


Individuals who are eligible for subsidized services may not be taking advantage of them due to a lack of information, trust, stable housing, documentation, or other structural and social factors.

Potential ARPA Funded Uses

This Will Be a Quick

Run Through

Of Some Potential Options

Slides will be made available 


An Adequate Device



Three Determining Factors of Digital Access

Starting Practices

  • Quantify the issue and understand the needs
  • Coordinate stakeholders
  • Guide decision making
  • Better understanding current public assets that could be leveraged (fiber, rooftops infrastructure, etc.)

Plans w/ MAPC underway in Everett, Revere & Chelsea

Boston Announcement of Digital Access Plan


Develop a Digital Equity and Access Plan



Connect Residents w/ Subsidy Programs

  • Take advantage of current programs like the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
  • Connect and support residents through adoption of subsidy programs. Comcast has Internet Essentials. Starry has Connect and Netblazer offers discounted internet as well

"سمعت بأن شركة كومكاست توفر انترنت مجاني لأصحاب الدخل المحدود .هل هذا صحيح؟


I heard that Comcast company provides free internet to people with limited income. Is this true?"

  • Develop funding pool to invest in community initiatives
  • Purchase PC's, Routers, and Bulk Internet Subscriptions
  • Add capacity to organizations connect to the community needs

Establish a Digital Equity Trust Fund 


Library / School Device Lending Programs



Support Existing Programs

Support School and Library Programs

  • "Pave the Cow Paths" connect those reliant on slow MiFi with more permanent affordable alternatives
  • DESE tested devices to extend MiFi connections. Potential is there to support hard to reach area/ households.
  • Connect families reliant on school laptops/Chromebook with devices after the school year ends

Signal booster pilot DESE




Computer / Device Repurposing 

  • Support computer purchasing or refurbishment programs
  • Build and Keep your own PC Youth training programs
  • Cooperate partnerships and device donation programs

Retrofit Programs

  • Repurposed Phone lines & Cable TV wiring in households can be a limiting factor in internet speed and reliability. 
  • Private ISP often make agreements with developer to wire and in return get exclusive agreements to serve, limiting competition.
  • Investments into building Fiber, Ethernet, Fixed Wireless options of multiunit buildings could have a impact.

Building Wiring Retrofits

Digital Workforce Oppotunties

  • Individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills
  • Navigators can be cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, health, and more who offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance. Can help support the critical issue of adoption as well as access.

Digital Navigators


NDIA w/ Salt Lake City Library

Providence w/ Digital Promise

Connecticut State Library


Southern Connected Communities

New York Digital Stewards

Digital Stewards

  • Different from Navigators, Digital Stewards are community members who receive advanced training in internet network technology.
  • They are able to support community-focused WiFi programs that support free and open internet networks.

MAPC RFI List of Interested Organizations


Open WiFi

  • Connect qualified individuals with free or affordable internet
  • Utilize commercial or municipal internet networks to access high-speed wireless signals via a rooftop receiver.
  • Make wifi access default. Leverage common spaces and broadcast on an open access router system for in-unit access.

Affordable Housing Open Networks



Community Mesh Networks

  • A distributed system of routers and devices that work in concert to provide internet access to users within a given geography, owned and managed by the community.
  • Explore revenue-generating equipment like Soofa Signs and Helium Routers 

ESH in Oakland

ESH w/ NPower Baltimore

Olneyville Providence w/ One Neighborhood Builders

The People's Network Helium Routers

MBI Gateway City WiFi program

Public Infrastructure Upgrades



Expand Municipal Fiber Infrastructure

  • Expanding municipal fiber, or conduit (tube Fiber runs in) can serve to open new options for public and commercial connectivity.

MA Community Compact IT Grants have funded prior investments. 

New Dedicated Municipal  Fiber Grant

  • Can connect municipal resources across communities and enable sharing of expensive IT infrastructure. 
  • Can connect municipal resources across communities and enable sharing of expensive IT infrastructure. 

Coordinate with Municipal Capital Plans

  • Example of old sewer lines being repurposed to run Fiber lines
  • Leveraging technology to support coordination of street openings. 
  • Establishing "Dig Once" polices that notify and promote competition and investment when opening a street.

Permitting and pole management

Increased Competition & Options



Partnerships with ISPs

  • Partnering with Public or Private Equity to bringing fiber closer to the end-user by pulling it into buildings
  • Leverage cable franchise agreement to make a map of current internet
  • RFP for use of assets like rooftops
  • Qualifying residents based on need, removing the administrative burden from resident and companies. 

Establish "Open Access" Networks

  • Alterative to the current privately owned networks and an alterative to establishing a municipally run ISP
  • Promote competition by public owning the fiber like they do the roads and managing many ISP options for residents.
  • Expands municipal fiber infrastructure, but does not require the municipality become the service provider.

Community Networks







Social Networks

Community Groups

Fiber routes


Design, installation and maintenance





Community Networks Assets




Fiber Laterals installed to two ONB properties

Public WIFI network


~1000 homes within service area


1200 unique users May-July 2021


Olneyville, Providence RI 

Network design, installation, maintenance

2 Hubs

12 Public Access Points

All OneNB buildings

Grace in Action

North End Woodward Community Coalition

BLVD Harambee

Tier 2 Broadband Provider

(business/enterprise ISP)

Community Hubs/

Network Access Points

Digital Stewards:

Community residents trained in network installation

Multifamily homes, seniors, students

50 homes in each neighborhood during Year 1

Detroit, MI

RHI Digital Steward Program 

  • Technology Career Training

  • Install, maintain, promote network

  • Support network users

  • Ownership of network

  • Internships with project partners

Community member

  • Online access

  • User support via Digital Stewards

  • Local information and resources

  • Ownership of network

Community and Youth Development

  • Program support and funding

  • Increased communication with constituents

 ISP partner

  • Lead technical aspects, including installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting

  • Digital Steward internship hosts

Red Hook, New York City

ECCF Presentation ARPA & Digital Equity


ECCF Presentation ARPA & Digital Equity

Presentation stakeholders at ECCF convening - 9.15.21

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