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Connected Nation names four honorees to share the 2021 National Broadband Visionary Award

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The Broadband Visionary Award from 2019.

Bowling Green, Kentucky (December 13, 2021) – Connected Nation (CN) is honoring four organizations with the 2021 Broadband Visionary Award — KGW-TV in Portland, Oregon; Fort Bend Independent School District in Sugar Land, Texas; and, jointly, RFD-TV and the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. This prestigious national award recognizes those who demonstrate exceptional and innovative leadership in the application of broadband and related technologies.

“These organizations showed vision and forward-thinking by providing platforms for a national conversation on the Digital Divide that took place on November 17,” said Tom Ferree, Chairman &  CEO, Connected Nation. “Each location hosted panelists from myriad backgrounds to provide a truly all-encompassing look at how the lack of digital equity and the need for expanding digital inclusion is impacting our communities. Without the support and commitment of KGW-TV, Fort Bend ISD, RFD-TV, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, Connected Nation would not have been able to provide the broad, diverse, and inclusive representation that was needed for such an important and timely discussion.”

Connected Nation is celebrating 20 years of service in 2021. As part of that celebration, the nonprofit organization hosted the national conversation on the Digital Divide. The free event was broadcast live nationally via the internet from studios in Louisville, Kentucky.

“The Louisville location served as our main studios — a place where we took in live feeds from each panel location, handled all the graphics, and rolled videos,” said Jessica Denson, Communications Director, Connected Nation. “Having live panels in different parts of the country was intentional so that we could have a truly national conversation on this issue, and so that we could get away from the stilted, online feel of meetings and conferences all of us have experienced during the pandemic. In addition, we chose an all-student-run location to acknowledge the challenges school districts face when it comes to remote learning. It’s important to note that each group provided their facilities, staff, and time at no charge so that Connected Nation could make this event a reality.”

The national rural network, RFD-TV, broadcast from its American Farm Bureau studios in Washington, D.C., which is why the two organizations are receiving a joint award; Fort Bend ISD in Sugar Land, Texas, was  the only student-run location for the event; and KGW-TV is an award-winning NBC affiliate located in Portland, Oregon. The station earned 10 Northwest Emmy® awards from the Northwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) in 2020, including top honors for Overall Excellence for the second year in a row. (Note to editors: KGW8-TV is the station’s official title, but staff prefers KGW-TV.)  

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2020 HONOREE: Michigan's Lt. Governor and Connected Nation staff attended the virtual ceremony in honor of 2020 honoree Robin Ancona

The panel topics ranged from “What 2020 means for the future of the Digital Divide” to the “Rural broadband conversation” and focused on where the United States has been, what success and failure it has had along the way, and what Americans can do next to expand digital inclusion across the country.

The event also featured stories from local schools, libraries, hospitals, and rural communities to talk with students, teachers, veterans, farmers, and others who shared in their own words why having access to high-speed internet is a necessary part of the American way of life.  

To see the event in its entirety, visit

More about the award
The Broadband Visionary Award has been given out only three times in its history. The past awardees are former Iowa Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, Col. M. Blaine Hedges, U.S. Army (Retired), and, most recently, Robin Ancona, Director, Telecommunications Division, Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

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2019 HONOREE: Pictured (left to right): Tom Ferree, Chairman & CEO, Connected Nation; past honoree Col. (Ret.) Blaine Hedges; Governor Matt Bevin (R-KY)

Branstad worked to expand broadband accessibility and was among the first in the nation to establish a state broadband communications network. Col. Hedges recognized how high-speed internet could help address chronic employment challenges facing military spouses and veterans, and championed the expansion of Digital Works training for the military community in Kentucky. Alcona advocated for all Michigan residents by implementing the State Broadband Initiative program, advising the 21st Century Infrastructure Council, and contributing to the 2018 Michigan Broadband Roadmap and Connecting Michigan Communities grant program.


About Connected Nation: The national nonprofit, based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is celebrating 20 years of service in 2021. Its mission is to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand access to and increase the adoption and use of broadband (high-speed internet) and its related technologies for all people. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. To learn more head to