BTOP brings broadband to the under-served

When the recession-battered federal government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), it funneled nearly $5 billion to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The mandate was ambitious:

"... to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers, encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service, and develop and maintain a nationwide public map of broadband service capability and availability."

The vehicle was the Broadband Technology and Opportunities Program (BTOP), which wound up investing in roughly 230 projects that Reinvestment fundingare "are teaching computer and digital literacy skills, providing online job search and resume writing assistance, and even training people for technical jobs in the information-age economy."

Recently, the NTIA blog detailed some of the BTOP efforts to create or improve public computer facilities offering broadband access to the general public or targeted at "low-income individuals, the unemployed, seniors, children, minorities, and people with disabilities."

Several case studies highlight the different avenues that BTOP is using around the country, to improve computer access and skills to under-served communities. For example:

  • The non-profit California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) works through 19 partners statewide, offering job training and career development services for the unemployed and homeless. CETF-allied Chrysalis in Southern California and The Stride Center in Northern California, use ARRA funds to "train clients in information technology skills and place graduates in IT positions."
  • Philadelphia took its BTOP funding to create or improve 77 computer centers in venues such as health and social service agencies, homeless shelters, affordable housing locations and recreation centers in low-income communities across the city. Under  Philadelphia's Office of Innovation & Technology, the program provides access to job postings, health information and Internet educational resources to those people without ready computer resources.
  • Based in Cleveland, non-profit OneCommunity is expanding its broadband adoption programs to the surrounding area and to four other states. Its Connect Your Community (CYC) project holds computer and Internet training, and provides low-cost equipment and Internet connections to low-income populations. It uses its community-based CYC Corps to teach computer literacy to job-seekers or those looking to start small businesses. OneCommunity says that, together with eight local partners, they're close to training 26,000 new broadband users.

Speed Matters has covered BTOP efforts, and  fully supports extending computer literacy and access to all Americans, and to use public resources where the private sector has come up short.

NTIA BroadbandUSA (website)

NTIA blog

California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) (website)

Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology's (OIT) (website)

OneCommunity (website)

BTOP is Working To Expand Broadband Adoption (Speed Matters, Jan. 21, 2011)