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Report from the Field: Deploying Broadband Infrastructure in North Carolina

April 13, 2011 by Andy Spurgeon, Federal Program Officer

As part of BTOP’s comprehensive oversight of its grant recipients, I recently spent several days in North Carolina conducting an on-site review of two broadband infrastructure projects.

Local broadband provider MCNC received two BTOP grants that together will fund deployment of more than 2,000 miles of new fiber infrastructure. The new infrastructure will reach 69 counties and directly connect more than 500 community anchor institutions across the state, including universities, hospitals, and public safety facilities. To date, MCNC has deployed more than 140 miles of conduit, with plans to begin running fiber-optic cable through the conduit in the coming weeks.

During my visit, I examined MCNC’s project management approach, project status, grants management procedures, financial practices and controls, and compliance with BTOP and Recovery Act program requirements. My review included a productive series of meetings with MCNC that after two days of rolling up our sleeves yielded a better understanding of our shared objectives and the challenges associated with deploying and managing statewide projects.

construction crew working

Investing in Maryland's Technology Future

June 30, 2011 by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman

This month I had the honor of hosting our Federal, State and local partners as we formally kicked off the construction phase of the One Maryland: Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN) Recovery Act funded-project. This project is important to me because it will allow the State of Maryland to bring sorely needed broadband resources to every corner of the State and foster cooperation across many layers of government.

Broadband and the Latino Community: Let's Keep the Momentum Going!

July 07, 2011 by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez

Yesterday I was happy to participate in a panel discussion about broadband at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) annual conference in San Antonio. NALEO members recognize that broadband Internet is one of the tools necessary to help their communities thrive in today's economy. In fact, I think that any conference focused on building stronger communities should include a discussion of broadband - it's a critical ingredient for job creation, economic growth, and improving education, health care, and public safety.

I talked about challenges and opportunities. NTIA's data show that although 90-95 percent of Americans live in areas with access to broadband, only 68 percent of households subscribe to the service. In fact, more than 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet in any location, which means they are cut off from countless educational and job opportunities.

The issue is even greater for Latinos. While the Internet subscribership rate for Hispanics increased by five percentage points last year, it is still only 45 percent. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors like income and education, Latinos still significantly lag the national rate in broadband adoption.

Persons Using Broadband in the Home by Race & Ethnicity

 

D.C. Adult Learners Prepare for Success in the Digital Economy

April 21, 2011 by by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna Gomez

Earlier this month, I saw firsthand the benefits of our sustainable broadband adoption projects when I attended a graduation ceremony in D.C. Byte Back, a BTOP grantee partner, held a ceremony for adults who completed computer and jobs-skills training courses. At the graduation I met students who showed me how these courses are enabling them to cross the digital divide and open doors to new opportunities.

One of the graduating students was a mother who had to seek out her teenage daughter’s help in order to pass the course. Another graduate was a senior who came to the program when her computer broke. She enjoyed the courses so much that she is now a volunteer with the program, helping to teach other seniors valuable computer skills that can help them stay informed and connected. Several others were already finding ways to put their new skills to work and had lined up job opportunities.

AMG

Digital Literacy Initiative Aims to Help Americans Build Online Skills

May 13, 2011 by U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling

Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke launched DigitalLiteracy.gov, a new online portal to help Americans find jobs and obtain the 21st century skills being sought by today’s employers.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) developed DigitalLiteracy.gov in partnership with nine Federal agencies, with the goal of creating an online hub for librarians, educators, and other digital literacy practitioners to share content and best practices. Through DigitalLiteracy.gov, NTIA is making available to all Americans the methods for improving broadband adoption that are being developed by Recovery Act projects.

Resources and tools on the site can be used to teach and help develop digital literacy skills including lesson plans, online training tools, and train-the-trainer materials. In addition, any user can go to the site’s workforce page to connect to a wide variety of career-building applications that teach a range of skills including word processing fundamentals, resume -building tips, and job search techniques.

Public Computer Center Setup Tips

June 16, 2011 by Moira Vahey

Supplies on hand? Check.
Equipment cataloged? Check.
Student union volunteers standing by? Check.

Setting up a public computer center is no small task. Fortunately, one BTOP project, Philadelphia’s Freedom Rings, created a step-by-step account of a recent “Setup Day” for a local public computer center. The article details the steps the grantee and local community members took to get the center up and running and offers tips on items such as laying out the classroom, cataloging equipment, and installing an operating system.

Public computer centers can be a lifeline for those who cannot afford a computer or Internet access at home. Many BTOP-funded public computer centers also provide training for people to develop the skills needed to use technology effectively and participate in the 21st century workforce.

This account can be a helpful resource for other public computer grantees – or other groups that are developing their own computer centers.

We encourage you to take a look at “How to Create a Public Computer Center” on the website of The New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, a contractor for the City of Philadelphia’s Freedom Rings project.

By sharing best practices, BTOP grantees can leverage their efforts to benefit other grant recipients and the broader community going forward as we work to help close the digital divide.

Congratulations to the volunteers and workers that participated in the Freedom Rings Setup Day!

Partnership with NTIA bolsters libraries' leading role in digital literacy, workforce development

May 31, 2011 by Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office

Research confirms that digital opportunity depends not only on access to computers and broadband, but the competencies necessary to successfully navigate the online world and be more competitive in the 21st century. America’s libraries are on the forefront of connecting learners of all ages with formal and informal digital literacy skills training, as well as access to a wide range of technology resources.

For these reasons, the American Library Association is pleased to collaborate with the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support DigitalLiteracy.gov. This new portal is an important first step in collecting and sharing class materials, research, and online learning tools. We look forward to greatly expanding the content available as librarians, educators and other practitioners engage with the website.

Building Opportunities for Latino Businesses

May 26, 2011 by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Anna M. Gomez

On Tuesday, I joined a group of Hispanic community development leaders in San Francisco to launch the Latino Tech-Net Initiative, a Recovery Act project spearheaded by the Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, which is equipping 17 computer centers in 11 cities across the country with equipment, software, and training to help Latino entrepreneurs and small businesses build online skills, spur local economic development, and support job creation in their communities.

AMG

Deputy Assistant Secretary Gomez delivers remarks at the Latino Tech-Net Launch

The “digital divide” remains a serious issue for the Latino community, and MEDA is on the front lines of addressing this problem. Data from NTIA’s Digital Nation report show that the broadband adoption rate among Hispanic households is only 56.9 percent - more than ten percent lower than the overall national rate. In fact, even after adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics like income and education, Latino households significantly lag White households in broadband adoption.

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