At a press conference announcing the awards, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves spoke about the grant program’s potential impact.
“America’s minority-serving colleges and universities are bedrock learning centers that have too often been left behind when it comes to accessing affordable high-speed internet,” he said. “The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program enables these institutions to be a resource for access, digital skills training and workforce development programs for students and the community to help level the economic playing field.”
The first five grant recipients were chosen from more than 200 applications received before the application window closed in late 2021. At least 40 percent of the $268 million in total funds must eventually be distributed to HBCUs, and an additional 20 percent must go toward providing high-speed internet access and/or equipment to students.
Additional application windows and awards will be announced “on a rolling basis,” according to a press release.