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Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives FY2023 Annual Report

May 29, 2024

Office of MinorityBroadband Initiatives

Executive Summary

The journey towards high-speed Internet service for everyone in America accelerates when a longstanding anchor institution enters the emerging digital economy. Through the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) directly addresses the lack of high-speed Internet access, connectivity, adoption, and equity at our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

OMBI works through these anchor institutions to impact their surrounding anchor communities. Anchor institutions invest in their communities as a way of helping them join nationwide efforts to make sure no one is left out or left behind in terms of having access to high-speed Internet service.

The journey of bridging the digital divide for all communities accelerates when an anchor institution enters the digital economy. In the 21st century across all communities whether rural, urban, or Tribal, high-speed Internet access is not a luxury, it is a necessity. For colleges and universities as anchor institutions, this transformative event resonates like a stone striking the water's surface, causing ripples that impact the lives of students, influencing the local community's prospects, offering opportunities for industry collaborators, and sowing seeds in the national economy.

Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI) FY2023 Report

Access a PDF version of the Report by clicking on the button below.

The anchor institution, whether an HBCU, MSI, or TCU, stands at the heart of this transformation. Its capacity to invest in broadband infrastructure to deliver high-speed Internet service and safeguard these investments through rigorous planning and the acquisition of skilled, technical personnel gives momentum to this change. When an anchor institution designs and deploys training, curriculum, and job placement for their marginalized students, it constructs a pathway to a digital future for both the institution and the surrounding anchor community.

There remain persistent disparities in the readiness and capacity among colleges and universities in terms of Internet access, availability of computer devices and training, and availability of an IT workforce. In spite of this digital divide, anchor institutions are resilient and resourceful; they find ways to work with the public and stakeholders to develop local community solutions to overcome the barriers the anchor institutions face.

Congress has directed NTIA to provide grants through the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program to HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. These grants facilitate educational instruction and learning, including through remote instruction. In addition, these grants support consortia including Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

CMC funds are allocated to:

  • Subsidize high-speed Internet access service connections through hotspots, laptops, and other devices.
  • Improve infrastructure and IT capacity at the institutions.
  • Provide workforce training including credentials in cybersecurity, fiber-optic installation. computer skills training and more.
  • Enhance digital literacy skills for students, community members, and anchor institution staff.
  • Furnish technology hubs.
  • Provide internships and apprenticeships.
  • Expand online learning capacity at anchor institutions.

Congress has also directed OMBI to help anchor institutions develop collaborations to expand broadband access, increase digital literacy, and provide devices in anchor communities. To make this happen, OMBI collaborates with federal agencies that carry out Internet access service support programs; state, local and Tribal governments; and stakeholders in the communications, education, business, and technology fields. This symbiotic rapport between anchor institutions and their communities was an intentional and essential element of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA 2021), the legislation establishing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives.

This progress report provides context to OMBI’s mission to expand high-speed Internet access for anchor institutions and their underserved, minority communities. It also spotlights OMBI's pivotal role in advocating for and monitoring progress towards this objective. Additionally, and a key achievement in 2023, OMBI successfully launched the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program.

The report chronicles this important initiative and its achievement: fully obligating $268 million to 93 institutions across 36 states and territories in its debut year.

As part of the mission context, the report details the challenge of the “Triple A” barriers: Availability, Affordability, and Adoption. Although these significant challenges were introduced in the previous year's report, this edition shifts the dialogue from challenges to capabilities. Early grantee achievements in overcoming these barriers through partnerships, planning, and innovation take center stage.

These preliminary vignettes, with their promising but fledgling outcomes, foreshadow greater things ahead. OMBI has paved the way for a more comprehensive progress evaluation by adopting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gauge mission success. The Office also aligns its metrics with NTIA's logic model to appraise the effectiveness of broadband initiatives. This holistic framework not only allows OMBI to showcase measurable advancement towards mission objectives in the 2024 report, but also to unveil best practices and possibilities for enhancement.

Advancements in tackling obstacles to high-speed Internet services, along with the successful practices employed, extend benefits to all anchor institutions. These benefits accrue to CMC grantees or the numerous peer institutions that weren't selected. This new insight shows the potential of OMBI's CMC Pilot Program and takes a critical stride towards achieving access to high-speed Internet services for everyone.