Connecting campus and community with next-generation broadband

Reliable, affordable broadband for HBCUs and surrounding communities

82% of Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are located in broadband deserts. Far too often, students and staff struggle without the internet access they need.

Student Freedom Initiative and Connect Humanity have created Connect101 to provide up to 70 communities — home to our HBCUs — expert support to develop plans to improve broadband connectivity, engage with state broadband offices, and secure private and public investment, including their fair share of $42.45 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding.

By preparing our HBCUs to secure BEAD funding and other investments, Connect101 is a transformative opportunity to generate new revenue, build workforce development programs, and enhance research opportunities for faculty and staff, all while strengthening the economies of historically unserved and underserved communities.

Find and out more and apply to take part ↓

"We will only grasp the staggering potential of our time if we create on-ramps that empower all people to participate, regardless of background, country of origin, religious practice, gender, or color of skin."
Robert F. Smith, Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners and Philanthropist

How you will benefit.

Participants will receive a Digital Equity Planning Grant to work with Connect101 to define local digital equity goals and create a roadmap for achieving them. They will also benefit from support and resources to apply for the funding needed to finance reliable, affordable broadband, workforce development, devices, and more. While BEAD is a key focus for the program, funding may also come from other state and federal grant programs, as well as private capital and impact investments.

We understand each community is unique, with different digital infrastructure, expertise, gaps, needs, and objectives. Based on past experience you should expect the following benefits:

  • Receive funding: A Digital Equity Planning Grant to offset your costs to engage in the program.
  • Engage with subject experts: Work alongside experts in areas including community engagement, data analysis, mapping, network engineering, financial modelling, and political engagement.
  • Assess community needs: Get a better understanding of the local market of providers, services, and costs, as well as the gaps in coverage and barriers to digital equity.
  • Create a network design: Define the technical requirements, operating and ownership model of the network.
  • Develop a business plan: Create a sustainable model to build broadband infrastructure, digital literacy, workforce development, and more.
  • Get ready for investment: Work with experts to apply for BEAD funding and other sources of finance needed to implement plans.

Impact of Connect101

By unlocking BEAD and other funding to advance digital equity in our HBCU communities, Connect101 will enable:

  • High-speed, affordable internet, devices, and digital literacy training to roughly 100,000 homes that lack adequate broadband access.
  • Up-to $10 billion in economic growth in HBCU communities by 2040.
  • Up-to 3,000 high-skill jobs designing and maintaining new networks.
  • $50 million in revenues for new networks and HBCUs each year.
  • Innovation of new products and services by HBCU students, in, with, and for HBCU communities.

How to apply.

We are inviting HBCUs to register their interest in participating in Connect101 now. To get started, please complete a community readiness assessment.

Our team will contact you once the project gets underway.

Questions? To find out more about this program, email

Hear from students Claflin University, where the pilot project is underway.

A partnership between Student Freedom Initiative and Connect Humanity