Rhizomatica/Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias (TIC A.C.) is a civil association made up of indigenous and rural communities in Mexico, and an operational team that accompanies people and communities that seek to build, manage, and operate their own communication networks. Their network has been built using only open-source software, lowering the cost of deployment dramatically and allowing communities themselves to invest in their own connectivity.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, invested $200 million in the United States’ first Fiber-To-The-Home network. In addition to a $2.69 billion ROI in the first decade, the city was able to quickly partner with the nonprofit Enterprise Center during the pandemic to extend broadband for free to all 17,000 families on free or reduced lunch; providing a critical lifeline to low income families during these difficult times.
In 2020, Fair Count set up digital access points with faith based organizations so that communities of color, rural communities, and the elderly could get counted in the census and register to vote. As discussed on a recent panel, there is a unique and ongoing opportunity to achieve digital equity through increasing local ownership of the internet via community networks built with anchor institutions in historically underserved and digitally red-lined neighborhoods.

Non-traditional operators like these need financial support to sustainably scale and meet the digital equity needs in their communities.

Connect Humanity can provide that critical, missing support, de-risking investments with our decades of experience in connectivity policy, technology, and funding.

Infrastructure

Scaling non-traditional operators and means of expanding device access

Our approach centers on supporting, catalyzing, and scaling non-traditional operators to meet the needs of underserved communities, reducing the cost of backhaul, and expanding access to devices. Because most connectivity organizations can only absorb small-scale increments of capital, Connect Humanity operates as a critical missing link in the ecosystem — investing manageable amounts in proven models to help local organizations sustainably scale over time. We focus the bulk of our efforts on this foundational step in the path to digital equity.
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Affordability

Catalyzing new business & financing models to reduce the cost of connecting

Even where the internet is available, affordability remains a major challenge to access. Connect Humanity tackles this through research that can de-risk financing and business models to connect the unconnected; by building complex capital stacks to bring more sources of funding together to bear the cost of financing network builds; and investing in technology at key points in the connectivity stack. Together, these efforts can reduce the cost of access which is essential to achieving digital equity.
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Digital Skills

Developing the workforce that can build the internet and supporting digital literacy initiatives at scale

In order to achieve digital equity, communities must have the skills to use the internet and the knowledge to build it. We’re focusing on supporting both digital literacy at scale (e.g., in schools, on devices, and at points of sale) while also increasing the pipeline of network engineers working in the public interest. This two-pronged process ensures people gain access to the internet and skills to utilize its wealth of resources and protect themselves from new threats like mis- and disinformation or identity theft. In turn, investment in the pipeline and community of network engineers enables communities to build and maintain the internet themselves.
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Content

Increasing incentives to use the internet by expanding locally relevant content

Locally relevant content is a critical incentive for getting people across the globe to use and pay for the internet. Sharing and supporting best practices in scaling the production of locally relevant content is a powerful way to help more people to use the internet to improve their lives. Moreover, the current lack of localized content for the majority of communities around the world not only excludes their members from participating in digital society, but also perpetuates the cycle of unaffordable connectivity as few people are willing to pay for access to content that fails to speak to their experience. Expanding locally relevant content encourages more diverse users to access and pay for internet services themselves, starting a new cycle in which the online realm begins to more accurately resemble and serve the world in whole.
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Policy

Advocating for changes to accelerate the rate at which people are connecting

Providing regulator training programs and advocating for policies — like “dig once” or increased access to spectrum — will accelerate the rate at which people are connecting. By building broad-based grassroots partnerships between better-informed local and regional leaders, we can foster coalitions and support the community of organizations already hard at work in this area. The right type of policy environment allows for much-needed innovation to flourish. The wrong kind perpetuates digital redlining and related inequities.
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Digital Equity

  • Infrastructure
  • Affordability
  • Digital Skills
  • Content
  • Policy

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