WASHINGTON – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced a $5.9 million Recovery Act grant that will expand broadband Internet access at the South Carolina Technical College System's 16 member colleges across the state. The investment will help bridge the technological divide, improve education, and help more South Carolinians gain the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.
"Thanks to this funding, public computer centers and computer labs throughout the state of South Carolina will be able to serve more than twice the current number of users. This means easier access to educational resources, jobs databases, and job skill workshops," Locke said. "Having access to the Internet's economic, health and educational benefits should be as much of a fundamental American right as attending a quality school or feeling safe when you walk down the street."
The grant was awarded to the South Carolina State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. Its S.C. "Reach for Success" project proposes to expand the capacity of 51 public computer centers and create 19 new computer labs at the South Carolina Technical College System's 16 member colleges. The college system is the state's largest higher education system, with 114,000 degree-seeking students and 128,000 continuing education students. Of these students, almost half receive federal Pell Grant assistance and 37 percent are minorities.
"Thanks to the Recovery Act, South Carolina is receiving much needed funds to expand broadband access in rural and underserved communities that desperately need it," Rep. Clyburn said. "This expanded access allows these communities to take critical steps forward to improve their health, education and economy. These funds positively affect the health and welfare of these communities, and will also create jobs, which is the number one priority here in Congress."
This project will open these community college computer centers to the general public for the first time and plans to nearly double the number of workstations available by purchasing 2,028 new computers, 596 of which will replace outdated models. The expanded capacity will accommodate an increase in users per week from 17,000 to 38,000.
"I was pleased to learn about the nearly $6 million that is being awarded to South Carolina for a statewide Public Computer Center by the Department of Commerce," said Rep. Spratt. "South Carolina has been one of the hardest hit states by the recession and this program will go a long way in stimulating our economy."
The S.C. "Reach for Success" project also proposes to:
- Offer laptop computers for students to checkout, enabling them to use new and expanded WiFi hot spots on campus for online research and learning applications.
- Provide quick turn-around job skill workshops in one of the highest unemployment states in the country.
The project announced today is part of a $7.2 billion program being implemented under the Recovery Act to expand broadband access and adoption across the country. Of that funding, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will utilize $4.7 billion for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). These investments will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth and create jobs.
Including today's announcement, NTIA has now awarded 17 BTOP grants totaling more than $200 million. This funding is part of an over $100 billion investment in science, technology and innovation the administration is making through the Recovery Act to lay a new foundation for economic growth.
- BTOP project information 
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U.S. Department of Commerce's NTIA serves as the executive branch agency principally responsible for advising the President on communications and information policy. For further information about NTIA's BTOP grants, please visit http://www2.ntia.doc.gov