Opportunity has become closely tied to internet access. Workplaces are recruiting online, many educational tools and courses have gone digital, and people are using online resources to start their own businesses. But while the internet provides a gateway to opportunity for many, those without internet connectivity are being left behind.
Truist Foundation saw this digital divide rapidly increasing among residents in the communities it operates in. We’re dedicated to building career pathways to economic mobility and strengthening small businesses for racially and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs—and wanted to find a way to help.
An aligned approach to philanthropy
The Truist Foundation team knew it needed the support of internet connectivity experts and got in contact with Internet Society. This nonprofit organization works with communities to provide the resources they need to build their networks and take advantage of the opportunities the internet offers.
© Elyse Butler
Hosein Badran, Director for Internet Growth and Trust at the Internet Society, working together with the community during a network deployment training session in Pu'uhonua O Waimanalo, Hawaii.
“The communities we selected were hard-hit by COVID, and a huge part of that was kids not being able to go to school online,” said Buell. “What we saw were marginalized communities getting even further marginalized through COVID.”
In addition to targeting historically excluded populations, Truist Foundation and the Internet Society looked for neighborhoods with community champions—residents they knew would help drive the internet deployment process. The town of Wilson, North Carolina, was a perfect match.
A stable connection changes a rural community
Wilson created a local enterprise utility called Greenlight Community Broadband to deploy broadband internet to its residents. When Truist approached Wilson, Greenlight had already launched broadband connections in urban parts of the community but wanted to expand the project into rural areas.
“We have been internet users since 1996, but not without challenges,” said Janice, a resident of Wilson County. “Before, we endured weekly issues with outages or poor connections. Greenlight provided no-hassle services at reasonable rates. Having quality internet has given us a stable connection to resources, education, world affairs, work, and so much more.”
By early 2022, residents in Wilson; Tuskegee, Alabama; Williston, Florida; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida, will have access to broadband internet connection. Truist Foundation issued a second grant of $1.5 million to expand support to seven additional communities across Truist markets.
“Truist Foundation’s work goes far beyond a corporate social responsibility program—their community-driven approach creates a lasting impact on communities,” said Buell. “Truist Foundation is an excellent partner because it’s dedicated to making a positive change in the world.”
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.
About the Internet Society
Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) 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 130+ 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.