RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A multi-million dollar federal investment is boosting internet speeds on college campuses of color. It's a grant program funded with cash from President Joe Biden's infrastructure law -- and it's providing millions of dollars to upgrade internet service at local HBCUs.
It's a big boost for Shaw University's still-very-new Department of Computer Science. More than $5 million is now headed to the Raleigh HBCU.
"This is incredible," said Dr. James Brown about the importance of the grant. Brown is the director of Shaw's Center for Cyber Security Education and Research. The center was founded 18 months ago with the goal of increasing minority representation in the cybersecurity workforce.
Brown said the cash infusion from Washington will help get the young department on its feet.
"This is truly transformative for the university. And it's going to impact so many students, so many lives here at Shaw University," Brown said.
White House senior advisor Mitch Landrieu spoke to ABC11 via Zoom on Monday. Landrieu is Biden's point person to get the federal funds out the door.
"(The money is coming) right away," Landrieu said. "I mean, this money is coming out as we speak."
This latest round of funding is from the Connecting Minorities Communities Pilot Program: $175 million to 61 institutions that serve minority youth for affordable high-speed internet connectivity. It's part of the administration's larger goal of boosting bandwidth and internet speeds in rural and underserved communities.
"The idea is really simple is to make sure that everybody has access to high-speed internet so they can have access to knowledge, level the playing field and have the greatest opportunity to succeed in their life," Landrieu said.
Back at Shaw, Brown is not just aiming to stabilize his young computer science program, he wants to make it elite. His sights are set on an academic excellence designation from the National Security Agency.
"The last time I looked there are less than 30 schools (recognized by NSA)," he said. "And so we would be the only HBCU and the only school in North Carolina with that designation."
It's not just Shaw - five other North Carolina HBCUs won grant funding, including Fayetteville State University. And last month, in another round of funding, Saint Augustine's University was awarded nearly $2 million to upgrade broadband on campus and convert traditional classrooms into smart classrooms.