Access to broadband for all Americans is urgent. Read more about how our Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) has developed a repeatable model to address the digital divide in communities hosting HBCUs starting with Orangburg South Carolina.
January 4, 2023
Student Freedom Initiative Announces Cisco’s Deployment of Wireless 5G Service at Claflin University
With Claflin currently residing in a broadband desert, this initiative will provide the campus and the immediate surrounding community with reliable connection to the internet
Orangeburg, SC –January 4, 2023 – Today, Student Freedom Initiative (“SFI”) and Cisco announced wireless 5G internet service deployment at Claflin University.
This partnership will provide Claflin’s students, teachers, administrators and staff members with reliable connection to the internet. These services will allow this institution of higher education to provide a more robust and modern educational experience for its students, while also supporting greater administrative efficiency.
“It is critical—now more than ever—that we ensure all students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have dependable high-speed internet if they are to compete in our 21st-century digital economy,” said Robert F. Smith, Founder and Board Chairman of Student Freedom Initiative, and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. “I am grateful for Cisco’s continued dedication to providing resources in order to expand the available opportunities for HBCU students. They continue to be an essential partner in our fight for racial justice.”
“Closing the digital divide is a necessary step in closing the racial wealth gap,” said Mark Brown, Executive Director of Student Freedom Initiative. “Students need the tools and resources to excel in their education and beyond. Deploying 5G service across Claflin’s campus will further engage students with their studies and creates a model to create equitable opportunities for HBCU students.”
Thanks to a generous grant and infrastructure provided by Cisco, SFI will help to coordinate the installation of hardware, software, and customer premise equipment to initiate this service. The new 5G network will also serve the surrounding businesses, government facilities and members of the community. With 82% of HBCUs residing in broadband deserts, this pilot program will provide SFI and Cisco with valuable feedback on improving and expanding this initiative to other HBCUs and the surrounding communities.
"Expanding 5G wireless service is an important step in making sure that students at HBCUs have the necessary resources for a high-quality education," said Saidah Grayson Dill, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Cisco. "This innovative solution will allow us to connect many of the households in the region that currently do not have access to the internet, and will inform our best practices as we expand this program to other HBCUs."
About Student Freedom Initiative
A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative aims to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This is achieved by providing a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending Minority Serving Institutions (“MSIs”) by increasing their social and economic mobility using a student centric, evidence based, holistic, and collaborative approach. Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Student Freedom Initiative enables mobility through four transformational components: (1) Student Freedom Fund as an income contingent alternative to Parent Plus loans, (2) Internships and industry-driven certifications, (3) Tutoring/Mentorships/Other Services, and (4) Targeted HBCU Capacity Building (e.g., access to affordable broadband, strengthening endowment governance and risk adjusted returns, workforce development in clean energy). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses, and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the entire HBCU ecosystem.
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