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Johnson C. Smith University receives largest government grant in school history to bridge digital divide

Campus scene at Johnson C. Smith University.

Charlotte's Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black university, received a $5.7 million grant, the largest in school history, from the federal government.

The nearly $5.7 million grant was awarded to JSCU by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The “Charlotte Inclusive Tech-Innovation Pilot Program” grant will go towards upgrading the campus’ technology and deploying broadband 5G.

“This project is important because broadband 5G deployment will help build a bridge between JCSU and our community,” said Dr. Diane Bowles, vice president for Government Sponsored Programs and Research at JCSU.

JCSU will upgrade to its aged digital system to help with classroom instruction and aid students, faculty, staff and community members. Parts of west Charlotte around JCSU are identified as broadband deserts, where less than half of households have access to broadband internet — now a crucial tool for applying to jobs, taking classes and living daily life.

“Earning this competitive grant allows the JCSU community to take advantage of 5G internet," said John Norris, JCSU’s chief information officer.

“As campus and community needs evolve, including the proliferation of mobile devices, it is exciting to create a network with high availability, recoverability, scalability and manageability.”

JCSU will see a major upgrade in internet services, going from 3G to 5G. This will allow students and staff to make multiple connections without suffering from network slowdowns. Improving the campus’ technology and broadband access is one of the goals in JCSU’s “Gold(en) Blueprint” strategic plan.

Twenty-one total HBCUs have received $69.2 million in investment under the program.


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Kenny is a Maryland native who began his career in media as a sportswriter at Tuskegee University, covering SIAC sports working for the athletic department and as a sports correspondent for the Tuskegee Campus Digest. Following his time at Tuskegee, he was accepted to the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program as a Marketing Intern for The NASCAR Foundation in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017.