BTOP is Working To Expand Broadband Adoption
While a lot of attention has been focused on the infrastructure grants awarded by The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the biggest impact that BTOP grants could be in broadband adoption. There are a number of very exciting projects in this field, and several different models to increase digital literacy and interest in broadband. The BTOP awarded grants to 44 sustainable broadband adoption projects for over $250 million and 66 public computer center projects for over $200 million.
BTOP is an initiative of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) and the programs that these grants have funded are designed to train communities across the United States to use technology in order to improve broadband adoption.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration publishes a quarterly report that highlights the progress of these programs and we will periodically feature some of them here.
Some exciting initiatives include:
- WorkForce West Virginia is designed to improve access to job information, career counseling, and skills training by upgrading and expanding 20 West Virginia One-Stop career centers. By replacing 165 existing computer workstations and adding 80 new ones, the centers will be able to provide high-speed Internet access and job training services to almost 2,300 additional users per week, nearly doubling the number of people using the existing centers.
- The Michigan State Library received two BTOP grants that, taken together, are designed to bolster public computer center capacity throughout the entire state of Michigan. The projects will establish over 40 new public computer centers and upgrade over 250 more in colleges, libraries, public housing developments, and other community support organizations. The state will benefit from over 2,500 new workstations — nearly double the current amount — that can serve over 190,000 new users per week. The centers will offer training focused on online skills and developing job-seeking and job-creating strategies. The project also will provide hands-on experience to university and community college students by giving them on-the-job training in computer installation and upgrading processes.
- The Lowell Internet, Networking and Knowledge project in Massachusetts will use public computer centers, outreach events, in-language training, and other methods to reach seniors and other specific populations in the Lowell and Merrimack Valley region, including the nation's second-largest Cambodian community.
Several other grants focus on linking individuals to local community resources and engaging local residents in expanding broadband awareness. For example:
- In 50 cities and towns across 31 states and the District of Columbia, the One Economy Corporation will train 2,500 youth to become "Digital Connectors," who will provide digital literacy training to others in their communities. This is one element of a comprehensive program that also includes linking public housing developments to broadband, providing technical assistance training for residents, and creating online content targeted to low-income users.
- In Alaska, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is leading a broad coalition that will implement a project to educate and empower residents of dozens of remote villages. The project will train 80 "Village Internet Agents" to teach digital literacy skills to their neighbors and to address the local hardware and software support needs of the communities, saving time and money. Villages will be able to certify telehealth coordinators who can bring broadband enabled health applications to their villages.
To see other examples of BTOP grants, read the NTIA quarterly report.
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