The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is administering a new Connecting Minority Communities Pilot program that aims to support minority communities with funding for technology advancement and broadband. The program has a $268 million budget, appropriated from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
The program targets eligible Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Grant funding will help eligible entities purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise, and facilitate educational instruction.
“Tribal colleges and universities, historically Black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions are bedrock centers of learning that have long delivered for their communities, but they have too often been left behind when it comes to having access to affordable, high-speed broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo in a prepared statement. “The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will deliver immediate benefits to these communities and institutions while informing the larger efforts planned under President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.”
Rules for the program have been established and published in the Federal Register. In addition to the purchase of equipment, the funding may be used for the “[p]urchase of broadband internet access service, including the installation or upgrade of broadband facilities on a one-time, capital improvement, basis in order to increase or expand broadband capacity and/or connectivity at the eligible institution.”
Eligible students should get priority for broadband service that is funded through the program, according to the published rules. The program will remain in effect until all funds have been disbursed. NTIA is holding a series of webinars on June 23 -24 for more information on the program.
The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot program joins other programs at NTIA funded through COVID-19 relief programs including the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program, which allocates $288 million for partnerships between states or political subdivisions of a state and providers of fixed broadband service.