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This guidance resource is grounded in the experiences of many community members and leaders across the U.S. Digital Promise, contracted by OET, hosted a series of six listening sessions with representatives from populations who are often most impacted by the digital divide. These conversations considered the perspectives of those leading work to support learners of color, Native and Indigenous learners, learners from rural areas, learners from urban areas, and adult learners and higher education learners. The final conversation specifically brought together learners and family members/caregivers personally experiencing the digital divide.

Digital Promise developed questions uniquely tailored to each conversation to support rich discussion among the communities represented in the session. Following the listening sessions, Digital Promise analyzed key takeaways from these conversations through a systematic replicable process that avoids bias to distill barriers and strategies, craft the strategic guidance points, and highlight case studies. Following the listening sessions, Digital Promise shared the takeaways with listening session participants as a follow-up for feedback and clarification. Case studies were also shared with relevant participants to ensure accuracy.

To supplement the conversations coordinated by Digital Promise, OET joined additional listening sessions hosted by the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, ED’s Office for Civil Rights, ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach, ED’s Office of Indian Education, ED’s Office of Migrant Education, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, National Center on Deaf-Blindness, and SPAN Parent Advocacy Network. These listening sessions focused on the barriers experienced by families/caregivers, learners experiencing homelessness, learners with disabilities, migratory learners, and Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous learners, as well as strategies for navigating those barriers. Insights from these listening sessions further informed this guidance resource.

OET also conducted individual meetings with numerous subject matter experts and organizations that work with populations furthest from digital opportunities to receive their feedback and perspectives. These insights have additionally informed this guidance resource.


Adoption of Broadband:93 The process by which an individual obtains daily access to the internet—

  • at a speed, quality, and capacity—
    • that is necessary for the individual to accomplish common tasks; and
    • such that the access qualifies as an advanced telecommunications capability;
  • with the digital skills that are necessary for the individual to participate online; and
  • on a—
    • personal device; and
    • secure and convenient network.

Bandwidth:94 The rate at which the network can transmit information. Generally, higher bandwidth is desirable. The amount of bandwidth available to you can determine whether you download a photo in two seconds or two minutes.

Broadband:95 “Broadband” is generally shorthand for quality internet service. Broadband provides high-speed internet access via multiple types of technologies, including fiber-optics, wireless, cable, and satellite.

Community Anchor Institution:96 An entity such as a school, library, health clinic, health center, hospital or other medical provider, public safety entity, institution of higher education, public housing organization, or community support organization that facilitates greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations, including, but not limited to, low-income individuals, unemployed individuals, children, the incarcerated, and aged individuals.

Community-based Organization:97 A private nonprofit organization of demonstrated effectiveness, Indian Tribe, or Tribally sanctioned educational authority, that is representative of a community or significant segments of a community and that provides educational or related services to individuals in the community.

Digital Equity:98 The condition in which individuals and communities have the information technology capacity that is needed for full participation in the society and economy of the United States.

Digital Inclusion:99 The activities that are necessary to ensure that all individuals in the United States have access to, and the use of, affordable information and communication technologies, such as—

  • Reliable fixed and wireless broadband internet service;
  • Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; and
  • Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation, and collaboration; and
  • Includes—
    • Obtaining access to digital literacy training;
    • The provision of quality technical support; and
    • Obtaining basic awareness of measures to ensure online privacy and cybersecurity.

Digital Literacy:100 The skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

Digital Navigator:101 An individual who addresses the whole digital inclusion process—home connectivity, devices, and digital skills—with community members through repeated interactions.

Digital Redlining:102 The practice of creating and perpetuating inequities between already marginalized groups specifically through the use of digital technologies, digital content, and the internet. For example, ISPs invest in building fiber infrastructure in wealthier neighborhoods, while under-investing in the broadband infrastructure in low-income communities resulting in low-income broadband users with more expensive, slower access.

Digital Resilience:103 The ability to navigate rapid digital transformation with confidence, adapting to the increased use of e-commerce, shift to online learning, and use of tele-health services.

Fiber-optic:104 A system that uses glass (or plastic) to carry light, which is used to transmit information. Typically, each side of the fiber is attached to a laser that sends the light signals. When the connection reaches capacity, the lasers may be upgraded to send much more information along the same strand of fiber. This technology has been used for decades and will remain the dominant method of transmitting information for the foreseeable future.

Hotspots:105 Wi-Fi Hotspots are physical locations, such as an airport or coffee shop, where people can wirelessly connect their device(s) to the internet using Wi-Fi via a wireless local area network (WLAN). A mobile or portable hotspot uses a cellular data connection, such as through a smartphone, to connect or “tether” their device(s) to the internet.

High Speed Access:106 Access that is not less than 100 megabits per second for downloads nor 20 megabits per second for uploads and latency that is sufficient enough to support real-time, interactive applications

Technical Support:107 Consistent and reliable assistance for maintaining, renewing, and using information and communication technologies and digital learning resources.

Technology Tools for Learning: Devices, hardware, software, and technology-based services used in in-school and out-of-school contexts for learning.

Unconnected: Learners and families not having access to devices and internet service.

Under-connected: 108 Learners and families whose access to devices and internet service is unreliable or insufficient to fully participate in society

93 H.R.3684 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2021

94,95 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 2021a

96 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce, 2022

97 H.R.1 – 107th Congress (2001-2002): No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 2002

98,99 H.R.3684 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2021

100 H.R.3684 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2021

101 National Digital Inclusion Alliance, n.d.

102 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 2021a

103 World Education, Inc, 2022

104, 105 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 2021a

106 H.R.3684 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2021

107 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 2022

108 Katz & Rideout, 2021