Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched a new Minority Broadband Initiative (MBI) focused on solving broadband deployment challenges in vulnerable communities. NTIA announced the initiative at the 2019 Carolinas Alliance for Success in Education (CASE) Summit held at Johnson C. Smith University. 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.
To prepare students and surrounding communities to lead in the digital age, this year’s CASE Summit highlights the importance of HBCUs as force multipliers for economic growth and rural prosperity. The summit is committed to building strategies to compete successfully for federal and public-private resources to fulfill HBCUs' historical mission.
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.”
“I am pleased to support this new initiative to support economic growth and competitiveness in HBCU anchor communities through high capacity broadband networks and connectivity,” said Johnathan Holifield, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. “I believe that this initiative will help HBCUs emerge as premier tools and preferred vehicles to inclusively address U.S. competitiveness challenges for themselves and for their communities.”
Broadly, the MBI seeks to achieve the following strategic policy objectives:
- Convening a forum where stakeholders can explore options for leveraging HBCU broadband infrastructure to connect neighboring communities of vulnerable populations; and
- Using broadband infrastructure investment as a catalyst for adoption that will result in job growth and economic development and deployment of advanced mobile technologies primarily in the economically distressed communities of the rural South.
NTIA’s work on the Minority Broadband Initiative complements the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which supports the nation’s priorities of fully deploying 5G and improving the prosperity of economically distressed and unconnected rural communities. The CASE Summit and Smart HBCU planning teams will facilitate conversations among North Carolina and South Carolina HBCUs, local community leaders, and state stakeholders to ensure affordable broadband in their communities, especially rural areas.
For more information, please see a report setting out a framework for discussion.