Connect Humanity and Microsoft to Invest in Appalachian Broadband


The fund says that the BEAD initiative is unlikely to eliminate the connectivity gap alone.

Corey Walker Connect Humanity and Microsoft to Invest in Appalachian Broadband

April 26, 2024— Connect Humanity, a non-profit aimed at connecting communities and non-profit organizations and advancing digital equity, announced a deal with Microsoft to expand broadband into Appalachian communities, according to a Tuesday press release. 

Connect Humanity’s Investing in Digital Equity Appalachia Fund aims to address the digital divide through targeted investments. Brian Vo, Connect Humanity’s chief investment officer, said that the partnership with Microsoft facilities this.

“With the right partners, it’s possible to build gold-standard internet in every rural and low-income community in Appalachia,” said Vo. “Public investment is necessary but insufficient. It must be paired with capital from partners that prioritize community needs and understand root causes of digital inequity, while grasping the strong economics of community-based broadband. That’s what we have in Microsoft and why we’re excited for their partnership,” 

Connect Humanity said the fund will furnish community-focused internet providers with low-cost loans, hoping to fill a gap not served by many current lenders. In addition to Microsoft, the program will collaborate with Community Development Financial Institutions, banks, impact investors, and foundations, the statement claims. 

Vickie Robinson, general manager of Microsoft’s Global Airband Initiative, emphasized that rural communities need robust broadband access. She touted Microsoft’s work with Connect Humanity as a way to close the digital divide. 

“Access to reliable broadband is a prerequisite for rural communities to reach their full potential in the areas of education, employment, healthcare and much more,” Robinson said. “Digital opportunities shouldn’t be out of reach for communities across Appalachia.”

The Broadband Equity Access Deployment effort is unlikely to completely eradicate the broadband gap between advantaged and disadvantaged communities, said Connect Humanity and Microsoft.

The partnership aims to serve as a supplement to BEAD, covering the regions ignored by the $42 billion federal initiative, said the statement.