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OMBI Identifies Barriers, Helps Close the Digital Divide

Marking one year of expanding high-speed Internet access in minority communities, NTIA’s Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI) today released its inaugural Annual Report. This report, required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA), details OMBI’s accomplishments over the office’s first year, identifies barriers to high-speed Internet access in minority communities, and outlines the office’s role in achieving digital equity across the United States.

Established in August 2021 within NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG), OMBI is the Department of Commerce’s leader in promoting equitable broadband access and adoption at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and their surrounding anchor communities. Given their decades of investment in minority students and their communities, these institutions are effective catalysts for the expansion of high-speed Internet service.

“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.”

The OMBI Annual Report summarizes OMBI’s current initiatives to support and build capacity in HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs; outlines barriers to access for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding anchor community; and provides recommendations to improve efforts to expand digital access and adoption.

Examples of OMBI’s key 2021-2022 accomplishments highlighted in the report include:

  • Administering the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC) and granting over $20 million in the program’s first ten awards
  • Collaborating with federal, state, tribal, and anchor institution stakeholders through interagency outreach, partnerships with national advocacy organizations, and support of NTIA’s Digital Equity Leaders Network re-launch
  • Building the capacity of anchor institutions and their communities through ongoing technical assistance activities exceeding 2000 participants

“These colleges and universities are the heartbeat of their communities,” said Doug Kinkoph, OICG Associate Administrator. “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.”

OMBI will continue to build on these promising successes and the insights into digital disparity made over this past year. By digging deeper into these challenges with HBCUs, TCUs, MSIs, and their anchor communities, OMBI will be able to implement a data-driven approach that will aid in closing the digital divide.

You can read the report in its entirety on NTIA’s BroadbandUSA website. For more information about OMBI or to learn more about NTIA, follow us on Twitter @NTIAgov, visit our website at www.ntia.gov or sign up to receive email updates.