U.S. Commerce Department Debuts Broadband Internet Initiative With HBCUs

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has launched a new Minority Broadband Initiative (MBI) focused on solving broadband deployment challenges in vulnerable communities. The program seeks to ensure that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can successfully advance broadband connectivity on their campuses and in their surrounding communities, enabling the participation of all Americans in the digital economy.

The NTIA’s report states that “HBCUs, which are located in rural as well as economically depressed urban areas, serve a unique role as anchor institutions in many American communities and have the potential to become “hubs” for broadband deployment, use and applications. Campus-wide broadband infrastructure helps HBCUs to fulfill their role as anchor institutions to better serve their host communities, and aid in America’s economic development, growth of social capital and increased productivity.”

NTIA’s initiative will work with connected HBCUs, or “Smart HBCUs,” to promote them as hubs of digital applications and innovation, and ensure their inclusion and awareness of broadband deployment grant opportunities. The MBI also will seek to partner with federal agencies, local governments, and the private sector to lay the groundwork for extensive expansion of broadband networks across HBCU campuses and throughout the rural South.

“We’re excited to launch this initiative that can help address some of the longstanding digital connectivity gaps in our nation,” said Diane Rinaldo, acting assistant secretary for communications and information. “NTIA’s expertise in convening partnerships will be a tremendous asset in solving these challenges, and we look forward to developing this initiative with our partners in government, industry, academia and public policy.”

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