Establishing a $100 Million Digital Innovation Fund for HBCUs and MSIs

On August 4rd, the Connecting Minority Communities Act of 2020 was introduced in the Senate. The bill would establish a $100 Million “Connecting Minority Communities Fund” to invest in community digital transformation projects led by Historically Black College & Universities (HBCU), Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions in anchoring communities.

The Connecting Minority Community Fund would provide grants to eligible organizations

in anchor communities to purchase broadband and infrastructure equipment for the community, and to hire personnel to facilitate workforce development and to grow minority enterprises. The fund would facilitate inclusive tech-based economic development and recovery within Opportunity Zones, where 48 HBCUs are located.

The bill would also establish the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce. The Office would serve as liaison for connecting federal, state, and local leaders and grants for digital inclusion projects.

According to NTIA, the bill furthers the Minority Broadband Initiative that was launched in November 2019 at Johnson C. Smith University. According to NTIA, the initiative will work with HBCUs “to promote them as hubs of digital applications and innovation.” Additionally, “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” said Johnathan Holifield, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

Photos are from the Sixth Annual CASE Summit and Inclusive Tech-Based Economic Development Forum at Johnson C. Smith University (2019).

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