Keeping Tabs on the Digital Divide

The LinkAge

ConnectHomeUSA Hosts National Summit to Build Upon Successful Digital Inclusion Work, Announces New ConnectHomeUSA Ambassador Michael D. Johnson

ConnectHomeUSA Ambassador Launch

On October 31 and November 1, 2017, ConnectHome and ConnectHomeUSA communities gathered in Washington, D.C. to continue their work on the innovative program that will connect people living in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted housing across the United States. Approximately 200 representatives from communities and stakeholders attended the two-day summit, which wrapped up on Wednesday.

Highlights include:

  • ConnectHomeUSA named Doug Kinkoph and Keith B. Adams to its governing board. Kinkoph is an associate administrator for BroadbandUSA, which is part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at U.S. Department of Commerce. Adams is an assistant administrator for Telecommunications, Rural Utilities Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
  • Discussions on various themes including connecting with residents, developing relationships with partners, how to work with philanthropic organizations, how to access and use existing governmental resources, and best practices for engaging community stakeholders such as mayors’ offices.
  • Well-received breakout sessions for communities to discuss challenges, set ambitious goals, and learn from each other.
  • A stakeholder lightning round to allow ConnectHomeUSA’s partners to share their commitments and resources with communities.
  • An evening networking session to help communities to #maketheconnection2017.

“ConnectHomeUSA is an ambitious, community-led initiative that will change the lives of more than 350,000 people living in public housing across the United States,” said Chike Aguh, chief executive officer of EveryoneOn. “As we conclude this summit, the work to connect people has just begun. We are invigorated about the commitments that these communities have made to digital inclusion and we look forward to the upcoming years as we get to see words turned into action.”

In May 2017, ConnectHome announced that it would expand to more than 100 communities, with the goal of connecting 350,000 people living in a HUD-assisted housing by 2020. EveryoneOn, the nonprofit lead for HUD’s successful ConnectHome pilot which was created to bridge the digital divide in 28 pilot communities, is leading this expansion effort called ConnectHomeUSA.

NFL Star Named Inaugural ConnectHomeUSA Ambassador

In addition to the groundbreaking work happening at the summit, ConnectHomeUSA also announced its first ConnectHomeUSA ambassador, Michael David Johnson, an American Football League defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Bengals in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft and has also played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played college football at Georgia Tech.

Johnson, who is from Selma, Alabama, will serve in the year-long ambassador term and plans to bring awareness, and shed light on this effort to generate one million digital connections. This is an effort that is dear to Johnson because he believes that giving every young person the opportunity to succeed is inextricably tied to the resources they have access to. Having adequate internet service is an important tool young people can utilize for education, job creation, S.T.E.M., AND S.T.E.A.M., he said.

During his upbringing and now, Johnson has witnessed how the lack of the right resources can limit a person from opportunities that people who are connected may have.

“I’m excited to add my voice to make sure that all people in the United States have access to internet connectivity and other technology resources that are changing the lives of so many.” Johnson said. “ConnectHomeUSA is just one way that I am able to give back to these communities and create awareness of the need for digital inclusion for all.”

The announcement of Johnson’s term was held on Tuesday, October 31 with Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL). Sewell is a vocal advocate and supporter of internet and technology for all. She, along with other Senate and House Democrats, unveiled a proposal in September 2017 as part of the party’s new economic agenda called “A Better Deal: Universal High-Speed Internet.” This component of the Better Deal agenda plans to bring high-speed, affordable internet to every American by investing $40 billion in broadband infrastructure to connect communities. The plan would also upgrade the nation’s critical safety infrastructure and create accurate maps of areas that lack adequate internet access to ensure rural Americans are not left out.

“I believe that bringing internet to all families is not only possible, but it is necessary to the survival of working America,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “EveryoneOn understands the importance and the urgency of our work to provide all families with a connection to the internet, and their campaign to expand internet access has had a real impact on the lives of half-a-million Americans. I was proud to join EveryoneOn today to announce the first national ambassador for their ConnectHomeUSA initiative, Michael Johnson. Michael and I both come from the Black Belt of Alabama, an area that is rich in culture and history, but a region where many families are still not connected to the internet. I believe that Michael’s work with ConnectHomeUSA will make a big difference for my constituents and for all Americans who are not yet connected to the online world.”

Communities and others can learn about ConnectHomeUSA on the program’s website at www.connecthomeUSA.org.


Sarah Graham is the communications and marketing manager at EveryoneOn. She can be reached at sarah@everyoneon.org.