Half of humanity lacks internet access, living without a critical lifeline to work, learn, access services, and participate fully in today’s world.
We’re a non-profit impact fund working to change that, combining tailored investments, strategic advice, and technical guidance so that underserved communities can get connected to fast, affordable, reliable internet access.
42 million people in the US live without broadband internet
The digital divide most affects low-income, rural, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, leaving millions of families without the connectivity and digital tools they need in today’s world. The largest telecom operators have not and will not connect everyone, it's simply not in their business model to do so. Government funding alone won't solve this problem either. But with the right partners working together, it can be done. A growing movement of community-focused internet service providers (ISPs) is proving that it's possible to build in all communities — and are delivering some of the fastest speeds at the lowest prices in the country. Despite a track record of success, the community-focused ISPs best placed to end the digital divide frequently struggle to access the financial capital they need to grow and meet the needs of communities. That’s where we can help.
Our roadmap for financing digital equity
Connect Humanity works with communities, ISPs, and investors to grow the partnerships, knowledge, and capital needed to deliver fast, affordable internet for all. Over the next two years, we will increase our low-cost, flexible investments that enable community-focused ISPs to build in communities in need, while significantly growing efforts to mobilize other funders to do the same. In our first year, we catalyzed $15 for every $1 invested. By scaling this activity, we can direct hundreds of millions more dollars to advance digital equity. We will evolve the strategic advice we provide, helping unlock new partnerships and capital to support 100+ communities towards building and extending broadband networks. Finally, building on our advocacy successes and leveraging our unique perspective as a digital equity investor, we’ll get more involved in calling for the policy changes required to level the playing field for community-focused ISPs and underserved communities.
This 2023-2025 Strategic plan builds on the many lessons we’ve learned since launching in 2021, including:
- Communities, ISPs, and investors are all essential to achieving digital equity.
- A broadband plan by itself is not enough, the right partners must be at the table.
- The advice we provide to unlock these partnerships is one of the most powerful and unique services we offer.
- Community broadband is a viable asset class and there is a robust market of community-focused ISPs.
- Community-focused ISPs, the small and medium firms of the telecom sector, are poorly served by capital markets.
- There is a huge untapped pool of capital that could fund equitable broadband deployments.
Evolve community support
Evolving how we work with communities, ISPs, funders, and investors, we will provide strategic advice and support that unlocks partnerships that actually get broadband built.
- Support 100+ communities on their connectivity journey through programs such as the Appalachia Digital Accelerator, with partnership development and practical advice that gets networks deployed.
- Create a program of technical and financing guidance to center communities' long term interests and network sustainability.
- Alongside Appalachian Community Capital, undertake capacity-building to help other CDFIs invest in community-focused ISPs.
Building on our investment program, we will demonstrate models that can connect underserved communities while delivering earning income that shows a path to Connect Humanity’s sustainability.
- Raise & invest $40M+ in community-focused ISPs.
- Hone investment models that can be scaled and repeated across various contexts.
- Leverage more capital through Program Related Investments (PRI), Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), Donor Advised Funds (DAF), and other funds.
Advance policy & research
We will build knowledge and drive action that helps the communities we invest in to succeed.
- Develop a research and policy agenda to advocate for changes that accelerate the rate at which people are connecting and inform action, alongside partners, to end the digital divide.
- Evaluate and share our learnings and models to build knowledge in the ecosystem and support others to do this work.
- Launch a fellows program to explore and advance leading-edge strategies to advance digital equity at the intersection of other topics.
Launch strategic initiatives
We will pilot a series of programs with the aim to refine and scale these as sustainable investment funds.
- Raise and deploy a $10 million Texas Border Small Business Broadband Fund to boost internet access and economic development in the Rio Grande Valley.
- Pilot partnerships with community-focused ISPs and development finance institutions to expand connectivity in underserved communities around the world, starting in Brazil.
- Innovate new models to connect affordable housing residents, leveraging existing housing finance tools and piloting projects with affordable housing leaders.
Our updated strategy positions us for ambitious growth in investment impact while strengthening our organizational fundamentals and the broader ecosystem. These priorities underline our deep focus on partnerships and policies that support the growth of capital for the ISPs best placed to equitably connect underserved communities. Delivering on these, Connect Humanity will earn its place as a recognized leader in community broadband finance and as a trusted partner to the communities we serve.
It’s possible to build gold-standard internet service in rural and low-income communities. When willing partners come together to invest, we can build networks that meet the needs of families and businesses — and that are financially sustainable over the long term. This investment isn’t just for broadband infrastructure; it’s for improved health, more access to economic opportunities, and, ultimately, greater wealth creation for the community.
We are matchmakers
We bring together underserved communities, ISPs who build and operate networks, and investors. These parties need each other but don’t always have relationships or speak the same language to collaborate effectively. Serving as a trusted advisor, we break down barriers and create strong partnerships that advance digital equity.
We are investors
We pioneer new models to sustainably and profitably finance community-focused ISPs on terms they and the communities they serve can afford. Capital is power and we use ours to structure deals that empower communities, including incentives and accountability mechanisms to ensure providers and investors deliver on commitments.
We catalyze more capital
Openly sharing our investment strategies, we are demonstrating that community broadband is a viable, profitable asset class. By forging partnerships and building capacity with other funders, we unlock more blended finance dollars to power the community-focused ISPs that can bridge the digital divide.
We advocate for community broadband
As a fund for digital equity we often hold unique insight into the policies and practices that can expand broadband in underserved communities. Working with partners, we share our learnings, shape policy, and build capacity for those who share our mission.
“Connect Humanity knows our pain points, can speak our language, and understands that in rural areas the economics are different. The team treated us as partners to develop a strategic plan for the growth of our business and put together a sustainable package to finance it.”
Why Connect Humanity?
Proven impact: designed and successfully deployed investment models with historically unserved communities.
Flexible partners: built a community of partners able to serve communities across the United States.
Pioneering approach: defined a new asset class for impact investors through blended finance.
Responsible returns: delivered a positive return on investment, primarily through revenue-based finance.
Addressing a huge need: with 42 million Americans living without the connectivity they need, we have a long way to go.
Our impact to date
+$45 million leveraged
15x public and private capital leveraged for every $1 invested
75% to minority/women-owned business enterprises (MWBE)
+160K low-income residents to be connected by portfolio companies
100% to Opportunity Zone communities
9.4% IRR for investments tracking to date
Our strategic plan sets us up to transform community broadband finance and unlock hundreds of millions of dollars for community-focused ISPs that can meet the digital needs of communities everywhere.
Our work is only possible with your partnership. Whether you’re a funder working to advance digital equity or an investor seeking an impactful home for your investment dollars, let’s start a conversation about how we can close the digital divide together.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org