Connect Humanity

2022 Highlights

Video by Zen Chung

Video by Zen Chung

Letter from the CEO

Post-pandemic, the need for fast, reliable, affordable broadband is clear beyond doubt. Yet, globally and in the US — where 42 million Americans still live without access to the internet — a deep digital divide remains. Ultimately, a digital society only exists for those who are connected to it.

That’s why Connect Humanity works to accelerate digital equity by providing underserved communities with the access to capital, knowledge, and partners they need to build their own internet and take control of their digital futures.

In this report, you’ll read about some of the people we’re supporting to connect communities in need today. People like Ms. Wanda Manning, a former school teacher who has been at the forefront of an effort to bring fast fiber to East Carroll Parish, one of the poorest towns in the US. You’ll read about our first impact investment in LaShawn Williamson and her team at Wave 7, a Black-owned, woman-led wireless ISP bringing internet access at 3 times the speed and a fraction of the cost of incumbents to hundreds of unconnected residents in Enfield, North Carolina who have struggled for years with unreliable, expensive service. We also feature Matt Rantanen and Chris Mitchell who have pioneered a nationwide program of Tribal Broadband Bootcamps to scale skills that Indigenous Peoples can use to build networks in their communities.

While these stories are inspiring, the people making digital equity happen need more support. Without increased access to financing, knowledge, and the right partners, billions of people are going to continue falling further behind just by staying where they are. That’s why Chris Worman and I founded this organization. We’re grateful for the help we’ve had to build Connect Humanity this year — particularly from the Truist Foundation which has been an integral partner and financial backer in our journey so far.

If you have ideas or feedback about our work, get in touch any time at

Jochai Ben-Avie
Chief Executive, Connect Humanity

Our Vision

We envision a world where every community has access to the knowledge, capital, and partners needed to achieve digital equity.


To accelerate digital equity by supporting, catalyzing, scaling holistic solutions providing people with the internet access and means needed to participate fully in a digital society.

Communities we support

We work with — not for — communities, ensuring they have the resources they need to build a digital future on their terms. In our first year, we've supported communities spanning the US from California to Appalachia. In the coming year, we will serve many more areas across the country and begin to expand our footprint to support communities outside of the United States.

Case Study

The battle to bring fast fiber to East Carroll Parish

Jerry Hawkins, East Carroll Parish resident

Jerry Hawkins, East Carroll Parish resident

“Be happy with what you have”

This is what a customer service representative told a long-term resident of East Carroll Parish when she called to ask for better broadband service.

Like most people in town, her internet service was slow, unreliable, and expensive. She was not happy with what she had.

East Carroll Parish is a rural, low-income community sitting on the west bank of the Mississippi River by Lake Providence, Louisiana. Almost half of residents live below the poverty line and almost two in three have no internet subscription.

Poverty and digital inequity go hand in hand

As in many poor, rural communities, traditional internet service providers have not invested in improving internet infrastructure there because they do not see it as lucrative. The resulting gaps in high-speed internet reinforce the town’s economic struggles. While East Carroll has a desperate need for jobs, businesses are put off from investing because they can’t get the fast broadband they need to thrive. And most people don’t have the connection they would need for remote work.

When Covid-19 hit, things went from bad to worse. Ms. Wanda Manning, now retired, was a teacher in the local elementary school. As classes moved online she saw that many of her students weren’t able to log in because they lacked internet access and digital devices. Witnessing these children miss out on their education, Ms. Manning realized the community was going to have to take matters into their own hands.

“The pandemic was the tipping point. We are building our own internet network to bring new jobs to the community, to improve schooling for students, and to enable residents to access healthcare without driving 70 miles for an appointment. We are bringing hope and opportunity — and we’re doing it on our terms” - Ms. Wanda Manning

“The pandemic was the tipping point.”
Ms. Wanda Manning, Digital Navigator

A community taking control of its digital future

Spurred by the connectivity gaps made painfully clear by the pandemic, people in East Carroll started to organize and Ms. Manning, along with other advocates working with church-based coalition Delta Interfaith, formed an internet taskforce.

In February 2021, the group secured a grant from satellite internet firm Starlink to provide emergency connectivity to low-income families with school-aged children. 120 satellite dishes were distributed to residents with two years of free service. For those who received the service, the benefits were immediate. For some, it was life-changing. Like Latanya Gray Swift who was able to secure a well-paid remote job as a service representative for Apple, eliminating her 60-mile daily commute.

This partnership was just the first step — and Delta Interfaith started work on an ambitious plan to bring reliable, affordable fiber internet to all residents in East Carroll.

To turn this ambition into a reality, Connect Humanity provided a grant to create a Digital Equity Connectivity Plan. These plans include community engagement to understand what residents want, technical designs to build or expand a network, and analysis to define the finances and human resources needed to turn a project from shovel-worthy to shovel-ready.

“Building your own internet network isn’t easy. Funding, technical knowledge, willing partners, political will and community backing — all of this is hard work. Connect Humanity has been a god-send for the project, helping us with financing, knowhow, and connections to move forward.”
Laura Arvin, Delta Interfaith

A $4 million grant to build a fiber network fit for the 21st century

Armed with their plan, the taskforce secured a partnership with rural internet service provider Conexon Connect to design and build a 220-mile fiber-to-the-home network. East Carroll then became one of the first communities to be awarded with a GUMBO grant from the state of Louisiana, winning $4 million to help fund the network.

East Carroll residents were on their way to a better digital future. Service would be available to 2,500 homes and businesses and offer customers some of the fastest connectivity in the country with symmetrical gigabit upload and download speeds with plans starting at just $49.95 a month.

Sparklight CableOne tries to derail the network

Just as they were about to break ground, incumbent provider Sparklight Cable One launched an 11th-hour protest in a bid to block the GUMBO award and derail their network.

Delta Interfaith and the East Carroll community were not going to bow to Cable One's brazen attempt to keep out competition. With the support of Connect Humanity and other allies, they told their story, holding press conferences, meeting with local political representatives, speaking with local and national media, and organizing petition letters.

After adding weeks of delay, the Louisiana Broadband Office ultimately made the right call and rejected Cable One’s challenge. But the protest has kept families in East Carroll waiting longer still for the internet access they deserve. While celebrating their victory, residents of East Carroll remain vigilant as they brace for further roadblocks from Cable One.

Delta Interfaith is determined to build their network regardless of what happens with their GUMBO grant.

“Soon children will have the connection they need to do their school work from home. Local businesses will have broadband fit for the 21st century at a price they can afford. And we will no longer have to drive 70 miles for a doctor’s visit when an online consultation will do. This network means a better future for folks living in East Carroll.” - Ms. Wanda Manning

Connect Humanity has continued to support our partners in East Carroll Parish as we work with them to line up the rest of the financing they need.

A story happening across the US

East Carroll’s experience should act as a warning to communities across the US. As more government broadband funding flows, communities must be ready not only to win these grants, but to protect themselves from incumbent ISPs who are ready with armies of lawyers and lobbyists to try to shut down competition from community-owned networks.

Those of us who care about digital equity need to support these communities. Connect Humanity is ready to partner with funders, advocates, and policymakers to work with our community partners to make sure they get the broadband they deserve.

Read more about Delta Interfaith's fight for fiber in East Carroll.

Bennie Hunter, East Carroll Parish

Bennie Hunter, East Carroll Parish

Bennie Hunter, East Carroll Parish

Latanya Gray Swift

Latanya Gray Swift secured a remote job after receiving help from Delta Interfaith to connect to fast internet

Latanya Gray Swift secured a remote job after receiving help to connect from Delta Interfaith

Digital navigators and residents in East Carroll
Ms. Wanda Manning campaigns outside the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge

Photo: Wesley Muller | Ms. Wanda Manning campaigns outside the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge

Photo: Wesley Muller | Ms. Wanda Manning campaigns outside the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge

Looking forward

Coming in 2023

Having built the foundations of Connect Humanity in 2022, next year we’ll be scaling our work to support even more communities to remove barriers to digital equity. These are some of the projects we’re most excited about:

Connecting from campus to communities 

82% of Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) are located in broadband deserts. In partnership with the Student Freedom Initiative, we will launch a program to extend broadband from HBCUs and minority-serving institutions to local communities, so that all students and residents have the digital tools they need to succeed.

Preparing Appalachia communities for better broadband

Some of the least digitally connected communities in the US are located across the Appalachian region. They urgently need investment to build internet networks fit for the 21st century. We will support 50 communities to build Digital Equity Connectivity Plans so they are prepared and eligible to secure government funding to build broadband infrastructure.

Launching a fund to leverage CRA financing to close the digital divide

We plan to launch a pair of funds that would use Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) dollars to expand internet access for communities living in the Texas-Mexico border region. One fund will be designed to help businesses get online and digitize their operations. The other will provide funds to help communities meet matching requirements so they can win government broadband funding (BEAD).

Get Involved

Digitalization is happening. Digital equity depends on all of us.

  • Can you provide financial support for grants, impact investments, or operations? Get in touch
  • Looking to help connect underserved communities? We want to learn about your work and find ways to support you. Get started.
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All of this work is only possible thanks to our donors and financial partners. To talk about funding this work, contact us at

Donors and financial partners

  • Association for Progressive Communications
  • Auth0
  • Filecoin Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • Humanity United
  • Hewlett Foundation
  • Hilton Foundation
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Internet Society
  • Mastercard Foundation
  • Okta for Good
  • Schmidt Futures