The Internet Society today announced that five recipients will share $1 million in grant funding to expand broadband access in their communities as part of the Truist Expanding Potential in Communities (EPIC) Grant. The grant program supports broadband initiatives to help alleviate disparities in education, employment and social welfare in the Southeastern United States.
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The Internet Society will distribute the grants, totaling between $108,000 to $180,000 each to the organizations and entities chosen by an advisory committee of municipal/community networks, and policy and community development experts.
The grants will be directed toward supporting community networks built, owned and operated by local governments and organizations. The recipients of the 2021 Truist EPIC Grant are:
- The Duval County Public Schools will receive $180,000 for Project OVERCOME21, a plan to turn schools in the Florida district into local broadband hubs for the surrounding community. The hubs boost signals to a three-mile radius and connect to the school district’s existing network.
- The Tuskegee Housing Authority will receive nearly $180,000 for its Jesup “Cyber Wagon” Project in Tuskegee, Ala. The project will provide broadband access to low-income, Black communities where a lack of Internet has hindered access to health, education and other services.
- The City of Wilson, N.C., has been granted nearly $180,000 to expand North Carolina’s Community Broadband fiber-to-the-home into a rural, majority Black community in Wilson County.
- The City of Williston, Fla., will receive $108,000 for its broadband program, COWLink, to support efforts to improve access and speed of broadband for local businesses, schools and homes.
- Wave 7 Communications will receive more than $150,000 to connect residents of Enfield, N.C. and outlying rural areas, train digital stewards and provide online learning to residents.
Many communities in those states representing the recipients do not have adequate broadband infrastructure, especially in rural regions, and, when they do, it is often too expensive for many residents. According to President Biden’s infrastructure plan, in Alabama nearly 17% of residents live in areas without broadband infrastructure and nearly 1 in 5 does not have Internet service; more than half of the state’s residents have only one choice of Internet provider. There are similar access and cost barriers in North Carolina and Florida, according to the Biden administration’s state-by-state infrastructure report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role the Internet plays in our daily lives and the vast number of communities unable to access the Internet,” said Lynette Bell, president of the Truist Foundation, which makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. “These grant recipients displayed extraordinary commitment and planning in addressing the urgent need to connect their communities and we are proud to support their ongoing efforts to build a sustainable Internet infrastructure.”
Community networks are communications infrastructures built, managed and used by local communities or municipalities and are a sustainable solution to address these connectivity gaps in underserved regions. The Internet Society has a long history of working with communities worldwide to fund, build and train people with the skills needed to run and maintain community networks.
“With the Truist EPIC grant, we are able to support community-driven connectivity solutions to ensure more Americans can access the benefits the Internet offers at a time when it’s never been more important,” said Mark Buell, regional vice president for North America at the Internet Society, a global nonprofit promoting the development and use of the Internet. “We look forward to working with our new community partners to bring this vital resource to underserved regions.”
The Truist EPIC Grant recipients were selected from a pool of 47 applicants from across the Southeast. Their applications demonstrated need, community support, a long-term sustainability plan and technical expertise, and met the low-income, indigenous populations or communities of color criteria. The grant is part of Truist Cares, a cooperative effort between Truist Financial Corporation, Truist Foundation, Inc. and Truist Charitable Fund to provide communities, organizations and individuals disaster relief and assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.
About the Internet Society
Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society is a global non-profit organization working to ensure the Internet remains a force for good for everyone. Through its community of members, special interest groups, and 120+ chapters around the world, the organization defends and promotes Internet policies, standards, and protocols that keep the Internet open, globally connected, and secure. For more information, please visit: Internetsociety.org.
About Truist Financial Corporation
Truist Financial Corporation is a purpose-driven financial services company committed to inspire and build better lives and communities. With 275 years of combined BB&T and SunTrust history, Truist has leading market share in many high-growth markets in the country. The company offers a wide range of services including retail, small business and commercial banking; asset management; capital markets; commercial real estate; corporate and institutional banking; insurance; mortgage; payments; specialized lending; and wealth management. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Truist is the sixth-largest commercial bank in the U.S. with total assets of $499 billion as of September 30, 2020. Truist Bank, Member FDIC. Learn more at Truist.com.
About Truist Foundation
The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity. Learn more at Truist.com/Purpose/Truist-Foundation.