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Closing the Digital Divide – for HBCU Anchored communities

Access to the digital economy

Student Freedom Initiative’s (“SFI’s”) goal is to ensure unserved, underserved, and Community Anchor Institutions (“CAIs”) are fully capable of engaging with their respective State Broadband Offices (“SBOs”) and are better positioned to compete for grant opportunities within their respective states. The purpose of this engagement is to increase access to funds made available through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD, $42.45 Billion) and Digital Equity (DE, $2.75 Billion) programs implemented by the Department of Commerce / National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  The Four Phase approach highlighted below is essential to the equitable allocation of funding to those most adversely impacted by the digital divide. 

Phase 1 (Data Collection)

Apply for outcome based grant funding to support the full lifecycle – community engagement and data collection through submission of proposal(s) for State Broadband Office (SBO) sponsored digital equity Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs). 

Phase 2 (Data Integration & Reporting)

Based on macro-level data from public sources and Phase 1 data collection activities, prepare community-based inputs to inform state plans in preparation for submission to NTIA for approval and subsequent release of funding to initiate the grant process.

Phase 3 (Grant Proposal Submission)

Obtain access to grant writers to work with HBCU and other community stakeholder to understand federal and state award criteria, review community gaps / solutions, co-create a cross-community consensus solution, and submit proposal in response to federal and state Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs).

Phase 4 (Project Integration, Management, and Performance Reporting)

Apply for technical assistance following successful award of funding from respective State Broadband Office (SBO), which includes support for Request For Proposal (RFP) development, contract management, and delivery and transition to operations and sustainment of any solution resulting from the award of the grant.

SFI is committed to improving access to the digital economy for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) anchored communities, 82% of which are in broadband deserts as defined by a recent McKinsey Report, and subsequently reducing the wealth gap. SFI targets the four primary drivers to the digital divide: (1) Infrastructure, (2) Device Access, (3) Affordability, and (4) Digital Literacy.


  • SFI Member Institution: Historically Black College and University (HBCU), with a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and defined as a Community Anchor Institution (CAI) by NTIA
  • Eligible Communities: Anchored by an SFI Member Institution 
  • Executive Leadership: Commitment by HBCU to collaborate with local stakeholders in the definition of gaps and potential solutions to reduce the digital divide for the betterment of the entire community




Participating MSIs/TCUs


Townhall meetings


Survey responses


DE Grants disbursed


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