Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! Spiffy here, back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Rene Rolando Gonzalez, co-founder and chief policy and compliance officer of Lit Communities Broadband Inc. Let’s learn what’s happening at Lit Communities and how Rene is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi, Rene! Thanks for talking with me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Lit Communities?
Rene: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Our organization is closing the Digital Divide in Brownsville, Texas which is one of the least connected communities in the United States. Since the community lacked the availability of reliable high-speed internet, the City of Brownsville and Lit Communities developed a Public-Private Partnership to build fiber optic throughout the entire city, including economically distressed and high-poverty areas.
Spiffy: How cool! What motivates you to do it?
Rene: When I learned that the gap between those who have and do not have access to computers and the internet was called the Digital Divide, I knew that I could use my knowledge and experience to address a critical need in communities that lack the infrastructure technology to thrive and support job growth. Also, experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic internalized the importance of staying connected to our schools, families, and jobs.
Spiffy: Absolutely. What is the impact of your work?
Rene: Our work impacts local governments through access to robust broadband networks that connect its emergency responders, parks, utilities and city-owned facilities. Our work also impacts local residents by providing reliable and affordable high speed internet in places that either lack it completely or only have a single option. Our work impacts local businesses and employers by providing them with access to broadband that supports their growth and enables them to maintain an online presence and modernize as technology does.
Spiffy: That’s a lot of positive impact! Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make?
Rene: As mentioned above, Lit Communities and the City of Brownsville recently embarked on a $90 million dollar Public-Private Partnership to close the Digital Divide in one of the least connected communities in the United States. The funding for the project is a combination of $19.5 million in public American Rescue Plan Act and $70 million in private capital investment, which is one of the largest of its type (broadband P3) in the State of Texas.
Spiffy: Congratulations, that is amazing. Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Rene: Lit Communities is thankful for the opportunity to work with over 70 employees nationally who know the impact we can have on each community we serve. We know that with every connection made, we are positively impacting and changing lives. So, each day, we are driven to approach our work with a subtle intensity and palpable passion—focused on building enduring connections—within our team, within the business relationships we nurture as well as within our networks of fiber and technology. All of which leaves a lasting legacy.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Rene—it’s been an honor!
Rene serves as chief policy and compliance officer of Lit Communities Broadband Inc. and is a native of Brownsville, Texas and current resident of San Antonio, Texas. Rene has nearly 20 years of experience assisting communities by developing critical infrastructure in economically distressed areas and rural areas throughout the United States. (Nominated by Lindsey Brannon of Rainbow Produce. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 5, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.