A tireless champion of internet equity, Laura helped to bring online millions of people and organizations. – Internet Hall of Fame, Internet Society
Laura Breeden – NDIA’s founding Board Chair – was recently inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, an international recognition of the highest significance in the industry.
Laura helped shape the path of internet expansion and adoption, and she is one of the originators of the digital inclusion movement. The Internet Society welcomes new inductees only every two years. This year, Laura was among a group of nine inductees and the only woman in the 2023 class.
In her speech at the Internet Hall of Fame induction, Laura shared: “When I retired in 2015, my friend Angela Siefer was organizing a response to changes in the FCC’s Lifeline program that could hurt low-income users. I knew this was not going to be a one-time issue. Advocates for digital equity needed to organize. That night, in a bar outside Washington, Angela and I agreed to go big, and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, or NDIA, was born.” Laura continues to serve on the NDIA Board.
“NDIA’s impact and scale would not have grown at such a rapid pace without Laura Breeden,” said NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer. “She ensured NDIA developed internal structures stabilizing and guiding our growth. I am thrilled with Laura’s induction into the Internet Hall of Fame. The honor is well deserved.”
Throughout her career, Laura consistently and creatively acted to expand digital access to underrepresented communities:
- As executive director of the Federation of American Research Networks (1991-94), she built relationships with leading library and K-12 school associations to influence public policy that strengthened internet access at anchor institutions.
- From 1994-96, Breeden directed the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) at the Department of Commerce, directing $60M to high-need areas while creating replicable models. While there, she fostered a culture of knowledge sharing that lasted throughout its 10 years.
- Knowing that broadband adoption called for holistic solutions, Breeden later headed up the $450M of public grants under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) at Commerce, pairing device access with digital skills and connectivity. More than 700,000 low-income households got online, and public computer centers added high-speed internet and 46,000 workstations.
- In 2015, she co-founded NDIA and served as the nonprofit’s first board chair (2017-2022). Today, NDIA is the national leader for digital equity, with more than 1,100 affiliates advancing the expansion and inclusion of internet and leading advocacy efforts, including $2.75B in federal funding for digital equity in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Other 2023 inductees represent work in India, Brazil, Costa Rica, Australia, and the United States, expanding the internet’s reach, security, and accessibility. A total of 144 Hall-of-Famers, inducted since 2012, are listed on the Internet Hall of Fame website, making the Internet Hall of Fame a unique and prestigious honor.
“I am very happy to accept, not just for myself, but for everyone everywhere working to build digital equity,” Laura said in her acceptance speech. You can also hear Laura’s speech below from the Internet Hall of Fame induction ceremony on September 26.