The Connect20 Summit

November 14-15, 2023 | Washington, D.C.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to connect the 20% of Americans who don’t subscribe to home broadband—and digital navigators are the key.

You can watch the videos of the program at this link:

Connect20 Summit
The Connect20 Summit is the opportunity to connect the 20% of Americans who don’t subscribe to home broadband.

The Connect20 Summit Program



  • Lauren Gaydos, Network:On 
  • Gina Gooper-Benjamin, National Digital Inclusion Alliance


Keynote speakers will discuss the importance of digital navigators and digital equity practitioners’ work to close the digital divide.


  • Mario Salazar, Executive Director, Public Policy, Comcast 
  • Juan Muro Jr., Executive Director, Free Geek


Representatives from several agencies will provide an update on efforts within the government to expand broadband access and adoption and close the digital divide. After a brief discussion, we’ll open the floor for questions. 


  • Drew Clark (Moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast 
  • Laurel Leverrier, Assistant Administrator, USDA’s RUS, Telecommunications Programs
  • Sarah Morris, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Deputy Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Joey Wender, Director, Capital Projects Fund, U.S. Department of the Treasury


As policymakers consider digital inclusion solutions, understanding the barriers to the problem is important. Cost is a key factor for not subscribing to broadband, but other barriers like digital skills, trust, language, location and access to a device play a major role. So how do we connect those Americans who are hardest to reach? This panel will explore why digital navigation services so important and the tools that digital navigators can use to connect community members to broadband, digital skills and devices. 


  • Angela Siefer (Moderator), Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • Candace Browdy, Executive Director, Connect Lake County
  • Kendall Lee-Daugherty, Digital Navigator, Cherokee Nation
  • Walter Prescher, Easter Seals of Greater Houston
  • Dr. Fallon Wilson, Black Churches 4 Digital Equity


With so much public funding available, how can local organizations work with their states and beyond to help secure public funding on all levels? And not to mention the private funding that is available through different ISPs. This panel will explore public and private funding as well as the public/private partnerships that digital equity organizations can pursue.


  • Kristi Zappie-Ferradino (Moderator), Director of Programs and Initiatives, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, Lead for America
  • Solomon Graves, Director of Public Policy, Heartland Forward
  • Thomas Tyler, Deputy Director, Connect Louisiana


Digital adoption doesn’t go very far if users lack the ability to meaningfully engage with the online world. How can digital navigators and practitioners incorporate digital skills training into their services? Panelists will discuss what skills are most needed and what’s working in communities to get people online.


  • Yvette Scorse (Moderator), Communications Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • Gina Birch, Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center
  • Graeme Jackson, Social Media and Content Analyst, Human I-T
  • Chrissie Powell, Chief Growth & Impact Officer, Byte Back
  • Caroline Treschitta, Policy Analyst, National Skills Coalition


Navigation services are key to getting Americans online, and the data proves it. This panel will explore the empirical evidence and studies backing up the power of digital navigators.


  • Kate Allison, Comcast
  • Jessica Dine, Information Technology Innovation Foundation 
  • Michele Thornton, Oswego State University of New York
Connect20 Summit
The Connect20 Summit is the opportunity to connect the 20% of Americans who don’t subscribe to home broadband.

Connect20 Bios


Mario Salazar

Mario Salazar is Executive Director of Public Policy at Comcast. Mario previously worked as a grassroots organizer on electoral campaigns and has led public affairs and government relations programs for a wide range of organizations. Mario is also a doctoral student at the USC Price School of Public Policy, where he plans to analyze digital adoption funding programs.

Juan Muro, Jr.

Juan Muro, Jr. is a dynamic speaker and Executive Director of Free Geek, a digital equity organization based in Portland, Oregon. With a background in leadership and operations training, Juan has seamlessly transferred his skills to lead-Free Geek since 2018, focusing on operational excellence and building impactful teams. Growing up in underserved communities, Juan's personal journey of receiving his first laptop through a foster care scholarship fuels his passion for breaking down barriers and enabling digital access for others. Through his engaging talks, Juan inspires audiences with his commitment to sustainability, technology reuse, and fostering a community that empowers individuals to realize their full potential.


Drew Clark

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Laurel Leverrier

Laurel Leverrier is the Assistant Administrator of the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Telecommunications Programs, where she oversees RUS’ $5 billion portfolio of telecommunications loans and grants. During her eighteen-year career at USDA, Laurel has served in a variety of positions and has participated on a number of federal working groups, including the American Broadband Initiative (ABI). Laurel is a graduate of American University’s Key Executive Leadership Program and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and Economics from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Deputy Administrator (Acting). Sarah is a lawyer, non-profit executive, and recognized communications policy expert. She joined NTIA in March 2022 as the agency’s senior advisor for broadband. Prior to NTIA, Sarah was the executive director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, where she led the organization’s strategic planning, fundraising, and management. Before that role, she directed the organization’s efforts on a broad portfolio of issues including broadband access and adoption, digital privacy, online consumer protections, and preserving the open Internet. Her work on these issues has been widely quoted in national publications and she has appeared as an expert on radio and television outlets.

Joey Wender

Joseph Wender currently serves as Director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund. Wender previously served for nearly 13 years on Capitol Hill, most recently as Senator Ed Markey’s Senior Policy Advisor, where he led a team covering a wide range of issues including telecommunications and infrastructure. Wender also worked as then-Representative Markey’s Legislative Director. Prior to working for Markey, Wender served as Counsel for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.


Angela Siefer

As the National Digital Inclusion Alliance executive director, Angela Siefer leads the digital equity movement. Since earning her master’s in sociology from the University of Toledo in 1997, she has worked in the field we now call “digital inclusion.”

Candace Browdy

Candace Browdy, Executive Director of ConnectLakeCounty, leads the nonprofit in its effort to close the digital divide in the northeastern part of Illinois. Her prior work includes developing and managing the first Community Health Worker program for the Lake County Health Department, and serving as the ED for the Schuler Scholar Program, the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, and the Chicago International Charter Schools.

Kendall Lee-Daugherty

Kendall Lee-Daugherty (Digital Navigator) is a member of the Cherokee Nation, located in Northeast Oklahoma. Operates a Connected Learning Center, a free to use computer lab with internet access for the public that was built in partnership with AT&T, to assist community individuals with their digital questions and needs. My goal is to bring the local communities and community officials in northeast Oklahoma up to speed with the digital equity issues and help close the divide.

Walter Prescher

Walter Prescher is a Digital Navigator at BridgingApps, he has a B.S. in Agricultural Leadership and Development with an emphasis in technology implementation and change management from Texas A&M University and a Masters in Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Fallon Wilson

Dr. Fallon Wilson is the Vice President of Policy for the Multicultural Media and Telecommunication Internet Council through which she launched a national campaign, “Black Churches 4 Broadband” to support digital access in Black communities. Dr. Fallon Wilson strengthens the tech ecosystem nationwide, especially as it relates both to Black women technologists and underrepresented persons of color who may not have access to the ever-changing arena of technology.


Kristi Zappie-Ferradino

As a passionate mission-driven leader, Kristi Zappie-Ferradino has focused her career in the nonprofit sector building and leveraging resources to advance positive social change in the areas of literacy, youth mentoring, civic engagement, and most recently, digital inclusion. She has extensive expertise in leading the development of programs and resources designed to improve program efficiency and strengthen local impact. kristi serves as director of programs and initiatives at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and is an advisory council member on the digital equity accelerator.

Solomon Graves

Solomon Graves joined Heartland Forward in 2023 as director of public policy. In this role he works to advance Heartland Forward’s advocacy and public policy activities for its four program areas (innovation and entrepreneurship, human capital and workforce development, health & wellness, and regional competitiveness) across the 20-state heartland region, including leading the Connecting the Heartland to High-speed Internet initiative. He is also developing strategies for operationalizing Heartland Forward’s research and programmatic work by increasing brand awareness, fostering public-sector partnerships and positioning the organization as a leader on policy solutions.”

Iris O'Donnell Bellisario

Iris O'Donnell Bellisario serves as a Program Officer and Digital Equity Specialist with Lead for America. Over the past 6 years, she’s engaged as an active environmental advocate in Indiana. Iris served with the Southern Indiana Development Commission for the past 2 years on public policy, community development and facilitation efforts to develop regional digital inclusion plans for a 5-county region.

Thomas Tyler

Thomas Tyler has experience in technology strategy, cybersecurity affairs, economic development, and public policy disciplines. As the Deputy Director for Louisiana’s Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, he has served an instrumental role in standing up key initiatives and lead numerous functions ranging from policy and government relations to strategic planning and grant program administration. Previously, Thomas served both in the public and private sectors, leading Louisiana Economic Development’s Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive Program.


Yvette Scorse

Yvette Scorse is the Communications Director at National Digital Inclusion Alliance. Previously, Yvette served as the communications director of Byte Back, leading the Washington, DC-based organization’s branding, thought leadership, and media strategy. An active advocate for digital and IRL equity, Yvette also volunteers as co-chair of the Rainbow Youth Alliance advisory council in Maryland. In 2020, Yvette was named a DC RealLIST Connector by DC, and she was awarded a 2021 Queer Women of Washington Award by the Washington Blade and the Mayor’s Office on Woman’s Policy and Initiatives.

Gina Birch

Gina Birch is the Program Coordinator for the Ashbury Senior Community Center, where she spearheads the creation and implementation of senior-focused digital literacy curriculum, fosters strategic partnerships and emphasizes the crucial significance of digital inclusion. Birch manages and trains the Cleveland Digital Navigators, conducts both in-person and virtual digital literacy training, and plays a pivotal role in designing, marketing, and promoting all ASC3 programs. Her dedication to enhancing digital literacy is evident in her multifaceted contributions to the organization's training programs and outreach efforts.

Graeme Jackson

Graeme Jackson is the Creative Content Manager for Human-I-T where he oversees the organization's social media strategy as well as other creative initiatives. Over the years of his career, Graeme’s has developed both the technical and strategic knowledge required to become an aficionado of marketing, digital strategy, and content creation in the rapidly evolving media landscape. His passions for storytelling and making a positive impact on his community has compelled Graeme’s to spearhead multiple projects he’s proud of.

Chrissie Powell

Chrissie Powell is a community-driven advocate for social justice. A Maryland native, Chrissie has committed herself to serving the underserved, unheard, and underappreciated. As a leader in the sector, Chrissie has dedicated the last decade to the nonprofit community. In 2019, she launched the Baltimore site for Byte Back, a 25-year-old Washington DC-based nonprofit that provides under-resourced communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy.

Caroline Treschitta

Caroline Treschitta is a Policy Analyst on the Government Affairs team at National Skills Coalition, a workforce development research, policy, and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. In this role, she works with Congress and the administration to advocate on the various workforce development needs of NSC's network. This includes learning about the digital skills needs of a broad set of partners, including community-based organizations, community organizations, labor management partnerships, businesses, adult educators, training practicioners, and workers themselves.


Kate Allison

Kate Allison is Executive Director of Research and Digital Equity at Comcast Corporation. In this role, Kate leads research initiatives aimed at better understanding the digital divide, barriers to broadband adoption, digital navigators, and impacts of home internet adoption on educational outcomes, workforce development, and health equity. Kate joined Comcast in 2016 as a Harvard University Strategic Data Fellow leading research and operational analytics for Internet Essentials, the largest and most comprehensive internet adoption program in the United States.

Jessica Dine

Jessica Dine is a research assistant for broadband policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. She has conducted research and written on closing the digital divide, the state of U.S. broadband, and how 5G can play a role in reducing environmental harm. She holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Grinnell College.

Michele Thornton

Michele Thornton is an Associate Professor of Health Services Administration at Oswgo State University of New York. Before joining SUNY Oswego in 2017, Michele worked as a health insurance and employee benefits consultant. In addition to continuing this work with small employers, Michele enjoys tackling independent health policy consulting & training engagements. Recent projects include developing and delivering the ACA Navigator Certification program for Get Covered Illinois.

Connect20 Sponsors


Network:On is a campaign dedicated to closing the digital adoption gap, bringing America’s Excellent Internet to everyone. Launched in 2022 as a public education campaign, we’re working with community organizations and partners nationwide to spotlight the stories of those who work on the frontlines daily, going door by door to connect and empower their communities. Visit to learn more.

National Digital Inclusion Alliance advances digital equity by supporting community programs and equipping policymakers to act. NDIA combines grassroots community engagement with technical knowledge, research, and coalition building to advocate on behalf of people working in their communities for digital equity.

Broadband Breakfast is the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. The company’s annual Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit champions a robust 21st century information economy.

Comcast Corporation is a global media and technology company. From the connectivity and platforms we provide, to the content and experiences we create, our businesses reach hundreds of millions of customers, viewers and guests worldwide. We deliver world-class broadband, wireless, and video through Xfinity, Comcast Business and Sky; produce, distribute and stream leading entertainment, sports and news through brands including NBC, Telemundo, Universal, Peacock and Sky; and bring incredible theme parks and attractions to life through Universal Destinations & Experiences.

Connect20 Summit
The Connect20 Summit is the opportunity to connect the 20% of Americans who don’t subscribe to home broadband.

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