While a resolution for bridging the home broadband divide continues to sit stagnant in the chambers of Congress, two top black executives recently announced the launch of a new infrastructure impact fund. Aimed to address the need for infrastructure in underserved communities, the Epiphany Community Impact Fund will be financed primarily by institutional investors including pension funds, foundations, insurance companies, and potentially appropriate governmental funding, reported Black Enterprise.
Morris Clark, former treasurer of Marathon Oil and Otis Ellis, a former JPMorgan Chase executive will manage the fund. J.R. Chantengco, managing director of Black Pearl Investments, will serve as the fund’s capital adviser.
In an interview with Black Enterprise, Ellis said, “The recent problems due to COVID-19 and the social unrest highlighting police brutality and racial discrimination has only augmented the deficiencies in urban and rural communities.”
According to the FCC, about a fourth of the nation’s rural population (about 14.5 million people) lack access to broadband services. Another 19 million people lack access to broadband service at threshold speeds. With coronavirus shuttering families at home for remote work and learning, those without service are being left behind.
“As we approach 2021, there are still urban and rural communities that are effectively broadband deserts,” said Clark. “As a result of the lack of investment by both the governmental and private sectors, there is not sufficient infrastructure in place to provide these communities with consistent access to reliable, full-scale broadband.”
The trio is focusing on the full spectrum of infrastructure shortcomings and is considering opportunities in broadband access and reliability, as well as transportation and education infrastructure. Ellis said, “With access to adequate capital, these communities will be able to work toward reducing and eliminating the digital divide which will translate to better educational, economic, and entrepreneurial outcomes.”
Ellis, Clark, and Chantengco are also members of the Shreveport Economic Recovery Task Force. The 40-member organization is comprised of top business professionals focusing on infrastructure projects to help boost Louisiana’s sagging economy post-COVID-19. The Shreveport Times reported the group’s goal is to develop a multibillion-dollar infrastructure package that focuses on broadband build-out and shovel-ready projects such as the I-49 connector.