On November 3, 2022, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives released its first annual report, touting more than $20 million in awards disbursed.
OMBI, established in August 2021, promotes broadband connectivity for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and anchor communities.
In addition to awarding more than $20 million through the Connecting Minority Communities pilot program, OMBI says it built relationships with a range of public and private stakeholders to further its mission. OMBI also provided technical assistance that “buil[t] capacity of institutions, students, and anchor communities.”
Looking ahead, OMBI identified three sets of barriers: availability, affordability, and adoption. Communities and institutions struggle with inadequate or outdated infrastructure, the report says, and remote areas often lack some necessary infrastructure entirely.
In addition, students often have limited access to badly needed devices and technical support, OMBI says. Knowledge and language barriers also disadvantage communities and institutions, it adds.
OMBI laid out four “next steps” towards digital equity:
- “Continue to build capacity of anchor institutions and their communities.”
- “Explore lessons learned from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program to develop best practices to expand digital access and adoption.”
- “Coordinate resources and efforts to support the Administration’s Internet for All grant programs.”
- “Explore partnerships with relevant digital equity stakeholders in support of anchor institutions and their communities.”
“This inaugural report represents the Office’s initial insights into the barriers to broadband access faced by HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, and within their anchor communities,” the report concludes. “In future years, the Office will build on this baseline understanding and dig deeper into these barriers.”
“These colleges and universities are the heartbeat of their communities,” said Doug Kinkoph, assistant administrator of the NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, which houses OMBI. “By working together, we can quickly pinpoint the barriers to availability, affordability, and adoption of high-speed Internet service in minority communities, and promote initiatives that can mitigate these challenges.”
“The first OMBI Annual Report marks a milestone in our mission to address high-speed Internet deployment challenges in vulnerable communities,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “The newly created Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives will lead the way to ensure that these critical anchor institutions and the communities they serve have access to high-speed, affordable Internet service.”
Read the report for yourself by following the link: What do you think of OMBI’s first year? And what do you hope it will accomplish in the future?