Planning Grants for Digital Equity

Frequently asked questions

What is a Digital Equity Connectivity Plan and why do I need one?

A Digital Equity Connectivity Plan is a holistic plan of action to achieve your digital equity goals. Connect Humanity’s planning grants support un(der)served communities to create these plans.

The grant will support your community to undergo an assessment of residents’ digital needs and your existing assets, and from there you will build a detailed plan to build the solutions you need to improve broadband in your community. This plan will cover network infrastructure as well as the skills and workforce development needed to build and maintain a network run by a community connectivity provider.

This Digital Equity Connectivity Plan will equip your community to pursue and secure further funding needed to build the network infrastructure and implement your plan. This follow-on investment may come from local and federal government programs like the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD), impact investors like Connect Humanity, or other private investment opportunities.

Do I need to be a company or a local government to apply?

Successful applicants are embedded in the community they seek to serve, have community support for their broadband plans, and have partnerships with other local entities. Connect Humanity does not restrict the type of entity that can apply. You may be a utility cooperative, a municipality, a non-profit, or a community-centered enterprise. We are looking for innovative ways to engage a range of mission-aligned partners, and seek to invest in the growth of community-centered connectivity providers.  

Will I be involved in implementing the project?

Yes! Digital Equity Connectivity Planning Grants center the community’s needs, and so grantees will be actively involved in the process. The Community Vision is a core element of these plans, where community members will articulate their hopes and vision for broadband connectivity and the economic, cultural, and social impact this will have on their lives.

Community champions will lead on elements including: 

  • Data collection and validation (e.g. running surveys, verifying maps, desk research)   
  • Convening community members and ensuring wide representation
  • Identifying local partners to that can build network connectivity and digital skills
  • Regularly collaborating with Connect Humanity staff and external consultants
  • Collaborating with grant writers to apply for funding, where needed

To support communities for their time and effort in the planning process, the grant may include an additional payment of up to $30,000, depending on the depth and complexity of the work needed. 

How much of my time will be needed to make this project successful?

Connect Humanity works with a range of communities at different stages in their planning process. The amount of time and effort needed will depend on where you are in your planning process, and how much data is readily available. 

Once grantees are identified and the paperwork is signed, we expect the planning process to take about 4-6 months. Much of the grantee and community involvement will be early in the project during the data collection and validation periods, and toward the end when the narratives are being refined and grant writing is taking place.

How much money will we receive?

Planning grants are a partnership effort between the community, the connectivity provider, external consultants, and Connect Humanity. The resulting Digital Equity Connectivity Plans are meant to support a community to pursue further funding for their networks and digital skills. For communities that have not completed much or any planning, more resources will be needed.

The full scope of our planning grants range from $10,000 to $120,000+. This is dependent on the needs of the community. For example, while some communities have allocated public funding to support this work, others will need support for the full planning process.

Will this program support communities outside of the United States?

Currently this program is focused on supporting low-income and communities of color to build and operate their own infrastructure in the US States listed below. We are looking to expand our geographic footprint later this year and next year. 

US regions and States supported: Appalachian Region, Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia.

My community isn’t eligible for BEAD funding, should we still apply?

Yes! Digital Equity Connectivity Plans will prepare all communities to build better broadband and ensure that any future funding is spent well to build reliable, affordable, high speed broadband infrastructure.

If your community is not eligible for a given federal funding program, or where this funding won’t be enough, Connect Humanity may be able to offer finance packages to implement your plan, tailored to meet your needs. A Digital Equity Connectivity Plan prepares you to secure funding from various sources, including government, impact investment, and traditional capital.

We encourage applications from all low-income communities and communities of color that are seeking to expand broadband connectivity.

I want to improve internet access in my community, but I don’t know where to start. Can you help?

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) recently announced two initiatives to support communities to learn more about their connectivity options. We also encourage you to check out the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) website for resources, and to reach out to your local NDIA chapter to find out about resources to get started on your digital equity journey.

Planning Grants for Digital Equity

To find out more about this program and apply, visit the Digital Equity Connectivity Planning Grants page.

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