From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

From DTE to Connect 313, How David Underwood Helps Detroiters

“I worked in Detroit, I play in Detroit, I worship and go to church in Detroit,” says David Underwood, chair of Connect 313’s Devices and Connectivity committee. “I care a lot about the city, and I care a lot about its people, and I want to make a difference.”

David Underwood has spent nearly four decades in Detroit. For 38 of those years, he worked with DTE Energy, most recently as a principal account manager. He retired in 2021, but these days he’s busier than ever. With Connect 313, David is focused on activating the community and making sure residents have the resources and devices they need to access the internet.

“I consider myself a change agent and a champion for the underdog. I’m trying to make a difference out here,” he says. “Those who don’t have access to tech are finding themselves at a risk and that needs to change.”

Since starting with Connect 313, David has helped to coordinate computer giveaways and has worked to connect people with subsidized internet access funded by the federal government. However, he says there’s still work to be done.

“We’re looking forward to building an open-access fiber optic infrastructure in Detroit, beginning in the Hope Village neighborhood,” he says. “It’s also crucial that we get more community engagement and get more residents involved.”

David is working to do just that by connecting with corporate partners and community-based organizations, spreading the word on billboards, and creating campaigns that people without internet access will see.

In addition to his work with Connect 313, David is the managing director for Detroit Community Care Network, a position he’s held since 2017. The faith-based organization serves people and families by connecting them to programs, services, resources, and information.

In so many ways, he is proud to be a champion for the underserved in the Motor City.

To reach David, email dunderwood@tnhccn.com.

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Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis’s Detroit Legacy

Kaleena Louis proudly calls herself a ‘legacy Detroiter.’ As Connect 313’s Policy, Advocacy, and Ecosystem vice chair, she supports the city where she was born and raised by connecting people to digital resources.

“A big portion is connecting with the community where they are. You can’t assume that people know what’s out there,” Kaleena says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much is out there today and how accessible things are, people just don’t know.”

One way Kaleena is helping Connect 313 spread the message is through Digital Inclusion Week, which will be held Oct. 3 – 7, 2022. The annual event promotes digital equity in Detroit by raising awareness about home internet access, devices, technology training programs, and many important topics and issues.

“Last year was my first year with Digital Inclusion Week,” she recalls. “This year, we’re looking forward to putting on an amazing week for the city that will be more inclusive and have more in-person engagement, while remaining COVID safe.”

In addition to her work with Connect 313, Kaleena serves as program director for NPower where she helps launch digital careers for underrepresented and underserved youth, military veterans, and their spouses.

According to NPower, today more than 50% of all jobs require some degree of technology and skill. Kaleena says that number will increase to more than 70% by 2030.

“The jobs are quickly growing, but there are certain people in our community who aren’t necessarily ready because of the barriers they face. Connect 313 navigates those barriers, and bridges the gap to help people overcome those barriers,” she says. “If people can’t afford internet, we have plans for that. There are parts of the city where fiber is being infused. People don’t know what they don’t know, and we need to be that voice to spread the word.”

As a lifelong Detroiter, Kaleena feels a special connection to the Motor City and wants to do everything she can to advocate for technology access and education, especially for Detroit youth.

“It means something to me to know that for my children and their peers, if they want to get into tech, they don’t have to go to Silicon Valley. They can get the skills and training and jobs right here in Detroit,” Kaleena says.

 

You can reach Kaleena by emailing Kaleena.Louis@npower.org.

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The White House

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet:

In a Press Release issued by the Biden-Harris Administration  announced over $25 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding to Help Ensure Every American Has Access to High Speed, Affordable Internet.  The City of Detroit is listed as an example of how this work is successfully being carried out.

“Detroit, Michigan will begin construction this summer, using $10 million in Fiscal Recovery Funds, to pilot a fiber-to-the-home connectivity project to approximately 2,000 homes in the Hope Village neighborhood with affordable 1 Gig service.”

To learn more about Detroit’s Fiber to home project checkout our blog post about why this work is important and the City of Detroit’s Digital Inclusion & Equity Page for updates.

You can read the full fact sheet detailing the funding for the American Rescue Plan Funding here.

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Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village

Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village  

Losing internet access for 45 days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is something Jeff Jones will never forget. The longtime HOPE Village resident, a husband and father of school-aged children, recounted that harrowing ordeal during a series of community meetings held at Focus:HOPE to discuss Detroit’s digital equity plans. The City of Detroit hosted the meetings. 

“For one or two days, [losing internet access] is not a problem. You can do without your Netflix,” he told the crowd. “But my kids were in school virtually. We lost our internet, and we lost our phone service. Instantly our neighborhood was shunted back to the 19th century. We couldn’t connect to the internet. Our lives were interrupted.” 

 Jones reached out to everyone he could. Day two became week two and his frustration and the community’s hardship grew. Eventually, he connected with Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion, and service was restored. But that 45-day outage is a stark example of why an investment in the city’s internet infrastructure is urgently needed. 

 Beginning this summer, a $10 million pilot project will deliver high-speed fiber optic internet access to every home and business in HOPE Village, located between the Lodge and Davison Freeways, Dexter to the west, and Hamilton to the east. Using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the effort will dramatically improve access and reliability. Property owners will be invited to ‘opt in’ and participate. 

 “We hope this new project will reconnect our neighborhood, [and] put us on a path to a bright and prosperous 21st century,” Jones said. 

Connect 313 Leads the Charge 

The idea for an automated open access network originated with a recommendation from Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a city-wide, data-driven inclusion strategy. The Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation, and Connect Humanity provided funding for initial research, engineering, and network design. 

“We want every Detroiter to have affordable, reliable and abundant digital access that elevates local communities and accelerates opportunity,” said Edmonds. “Using public funds to invest in an open public infrastructure is something that will spur private investment and drive private competition.” 

How will Detroit’s fiber optic infrastructure work? Multiple providers will have access to the same fiber lines, fostering competition and lowering costs for customers. The city is studying different ways to minimize costs, as well as a sliding scale for residents with lower incomes. 

Open access operates like our airports and roads,” Edmonds explained. “The city provides the infrastructure and internet service providers can use the fiber lines the city installs to deliver service to residents.” 

It is estimated that a fiber optic system will last more than 50 years. As more internet speed is needed, cables will not need to be changed, making this an effective long-term solution. The goal is to eventually install fiber optic lines to homes and businesses across the entire city. 

 “It’s about making sure that every single person is empowered with the devices, with the internet connectivity and the digital literacy training that they deserve, and that they have a right to,” added Laura Granneman, Vice President, Rocket Community Fund.” 

 “There absolutely is a digital divide and gap in this city,” said Angela Calloway, Detroit City Councilwoman for District 2. “Your zip code should not matter whether or not you have access. I am so absolutely proud of the efforts that you are making.” 

Information and updates will be posted on the city’s Digital Inclusion & Equity page. 

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2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

2022 Detroit Means Business Summit

Detroit Means Business  hosted its inaugural small business summit on May 2, 2022.  The event  offered tangible takeaways for strengthening business, including 1:1 Expert Consultations, Live Panels and Workshops.  Connect 313 was proud to participate in this event to support local Detroit businesses utilize digital resources to promote and strengthen their business.  Myka Burley Connect 313’s Community Manager is an active participant in Detroit Means Business as a member of small business x digital divide committee.  Autumn Evans Connect 313’s Operations Director spoke on a panel about pro tips for digital business success, where she also shared details about how the city of Detroit is working to bridge the digital divide.  Qumisha Goss Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Subject Matter Expert also attended the morning session to give 1:1 Consultations on Digital resources.

During our 1:1 Consultations we met with the following Detroit businesses

Some lessons we’ve learned and some tips for small businesses.

  1. Maintaining a digital presence takes time and dedication.  Set a schedule for yourself to regularly post to or update your website or social media presence. Rachel Wood of the Art Loft has a beautifully updated website and strong web presence and she shared with us that she spends a lot of her time keeping her web presence up to date.  There are also digital tools available to assist you with this process. Learn More.
  2. Digital Marketing can be daunting, finding your tribe or a group of like-minded people can help you get a leg up.   The Gospel Music Cafe has successfully marketed their ball room dance classes and poetry events by sharing their events with local facebook groups.
  3. Your Business Acumen, Knowledge and Passion will drive your business. Digital Tools and Technology are just tools to support you. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices, and options.  You know your business best, think critically about what you need help with and access your own willingness to learn new technology or systems your self or a hire a professional as needed. Valaise  at Tried and True Financial shared her digital business Card with us, a cool digital tool by HiHello.Hi Hello Business card

Check out https://www.detroitmeansbusiness.org/  for more tools and resources to support your business.

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Tigers Stadium Rocket Mortgage

Rocket and the Detroit Tigers are teaming up to Support Connect 313

Rocket and the Detroit Tigers are teaming up to support Connect 313 bridge the digital divide

To help end the digital divide in Detroit, Rocket Mortgage announced a new promotion in conjunction with its Tigers Partnership. Each time a Tigers player hits a home run off the “Rocket” foul poles, Rocket Mortgage will contribute $5,000 to the Connect 313 Fund. If the home run results in a grand slam, the company will contribute $20,000 to bring digital connectivity and literacy to Detroiters.

Click here to learn more about this partnership.

 

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Rocket Giving Fund directed $700,000 to Connect 313 Fund in support of landmark digital inclusion initiative

Rocket Giving Fund directed $700,000 to Connect 313 Fund in support of landmark digital inclusion initiative

In 2021 The Rocket Mortgage Classic raised 1.35 million dollars. $805,000 of which has been reinvested in Community partners in support of the “Changing the Course” initiative.

$700,000 was directed to the Connect 313 Fund.  The Connect 313 Fund has tirelessly worked to impact the outcome for Detroit residents, ensuring that households become digitally included and that residents are able to access job training, education, telemedicine and other necessities that are the hallmark of a connected and thriving community. These efforts have led to – 67.5 percent – of Detroit households becoming digitally included after only 30 percent enjoyed that status three years ago.

 

Click here to learn more about the Rocket Giving Fund’s contributions to bridging the digital divide..

 

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Rocket Mortgage & Detroit Lions Support Digital Inclusion

Rocket Mortgage & Detroit Lions Support Digital Inclusion

This past football season Rocket Mortgage and the Detroit Lions teamed up to bridge the digital divide for our neighbors here in Detroit with the Rocket Mortgage Red Zone.

Every time the Lions scored points in the Red Zone, Rocket Mortgage and the Detroit Lions donated $1,000 to Connect 313.  Through this Partnership, Connect 313 was awarded $35,000 to help provide internet connectivity and digital access for Detroiters.

Click here to learn more about this initiative.

 

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Jason Momoa Shares Support for Connect 313

Jason Momoa Shares Support for Connect 313

Hollywood star Jason Momoa has a passion for Detroit, so when he learned about what Rocket Mortgage was doing alongside the city to bridge the digital divide, he wanted to learn more. Recently, Jason visited Detroit to talk with Rocket Mortgage Chief Marketing Officer Casey Hurbis about the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s “Changing the Course” initiative, which raised $2.7 million this year for nonprofit organizations, including $2.1 million specifically for the Connect 313 Fund.

Jason also toured the city with Josh Edmonds, Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit, to learn more about the important progress being made to connect the community and ensure all Detroit residents can access the digital world and the opportunity it brings.

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Introducing the Connect 313 Fund

Introducing the Connect 313 Fund

Rocket Mortgage Classic Announces Launch of Connect 313 Fund

The Rocket Mortgage Classic, in partnership with its title sponsor Rocket Mortgage, today announced the beneficiaries of this year’s PGA TOUR event and the launch of the Connect 313 Fund, a new organization that will coordinate digital inclusion strategy across the city of Detroit as part of the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s “Changing the Course” initiative.

The Connect 313 Fund was developed in partnership with the City of Detroit and key stakeholders from private and nonprofit organizations, and is rooted in the City’s visionary “Connect 313” program. In addition to coordinating a city-wide, data-driven digital inclusion strategy, the Fund will make investments into Detroit-based nonprofit partners to increase access to technology, internet and digital literacy resources.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is committed to using this year’s event to launch and financially support this city-wide organization. Initial funding will supplement and scale programming to build neighborhood technology hubs, collect real-time data and support and empower community advocates to deliver resources that bridge the digital divide.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly magnified the digital divide, the reality is that nearly one in three Detroit families have lacked access to internet and digital resources for decades. It’s important to our entire organization, and our founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, that the Rocket Mortgage Classic serves as a driver of lasting change. The Connect 313 Fund, alongside other primary beneficiaries, will allow us to address long-lasting gaps in access to healthcare, education and employment, which are a consequence of the underlying lack of digital connectivity.― Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Mortgage.

“By ‘Changing the Course,’ we can collectively and collaboratively bridge the digital divide in Detroit once and for all.”

The Connect 313 Fund will be focused on four strategic pillars:

  1. Collecting accurate neighborhood-level data on technology and internet access.
  2. Building and supporting neighborhood technology hubs by invested in trusted community centers to grow technology resources.
  3. Empowering residents to become digital literacy ambassadors in their respective neighborhoods.
  4. Coordinating city-wide fundraising and public advocacy for systemic change in digital inclusion.

The United Way for Southeastern Michigan will administer the Connect 313 Fund. The Rocket Giving Fund – the 501(c)(3) that operates the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the City of Detroit and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan will facilitate a board and governance structure where community, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders will collectively execute the mission of the Connect 313 Fund. This includes the prioritization and funding of Detroit-based nonprofit organizations in order to achieve universal access to the internet, technology and digital literacy training.

“The Connect 313 Fund will allow us to realize the dream – laid out by our ‘Connect 313’ program – of making Detroit a national model for digital inclusion,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “By striving to provide all Detroiters with access to the digital world, technology and digital literacy, we can ensure they will also have access to the opportunity it brings.”

“I am encouraged that proceeds from the Rocket Mortgage Classic will help create connectivity hubs across the city of Detroit,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “The Connect 313 Fund is a collaborative effort that is vitally important for every family, business, and organization – making technology more accessible to children, families, and communities. This has the potential to serve as a model for what can be done by public/private partnerships in other areas, where technology access gaps exist.”

Additional primary beneficiaries identified by the Rocket Giving Fund for the Changing the Course initiative include:

The Children’s Foundation – which will work with youth-centric nonprofits to bridge the digital divide within their programming. Partners include 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic beneficiaries Detroit Police Athletic League, First Tee of Greater Detroit and Midnight Golf.

Greater Palmer Park Community – a collection of seven neighborhoods around Palmer Park and the Detroit Golf Club dedicated to the holistic improvement and advancement of the entire area.

Funds will be generated to support the Changing the Course initiative in a variety of ways. Among those are the AREA 313 Challenge, the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s online merchandise store, a virtual tee time experience that allows partners access to exclusive online player chats, and the Rocket Mortgage Fall Classic – a re-imagined golf outing and culinary experience planned for September.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic’s “AREA 313” will also serve as a driving force toward generating donations. A nod to Detroit’s famed area code, the AREA 313 Challenge focuses on holes 14, 15 and 16 at Detroit Golf Club. PGA TOUR golfers will strive to make an eagle, hole-in-one and birdie (3-1-3) on those holes during the four rounds of play Thursday-Sunday. If any player registers scores of 3, 1 and 3 on those holes over the four days, the tournament will make a $313,000 donation in their name toward Changing the Course.

Additionally, any time a player scores a 3, a 1 or a 3 on the respective holes, a direct donation will be made by Rocket Mortgage to Changing the Course. An eagle (3) on hole 14 will amount provide a $5,000 donation, a hole-in-one on hole 15 is worth a $25,000 donation and a birdie (3) on hole 16 will net $5,000. It is estimated that more than $200,000 will be generated by Rocket Mortgage through this effort. Tournament partner Delta Dental has already pledged $50,000 to the campaign.

“There are so many ways for our fans to get involved and support the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s Changing the Course initiative,” said Jason Langwell, the Executive Director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “Our overriding mission has always been, and will always be, to use this event as a way to effect positive change in the city of Detroit, and we’re confident that we’ll be able to do that for several years to come, thanks to some creative new activations that we have developed to support the cause. We’re looking forward to a terrific tournament week and an impactful one as well.”

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