LUS received permission from the City-Parish Council to apply for "BTOP" stimulus funding in a special meeting held after Wednesday's Council session. You can take a gander at the meeting minutes or view it on at UStream online (@ 1:54)
The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) is part of the ongoing federal recovery stimulus funding. BTOP provides grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable broadband adoption projects. LUS won't need to apply for infrastructure—that's something we've already done for ourselves—so the focus of Lafayette's grant application will likely be in the area of community computing centers and sustainable broadband.
This new application follows the success of LUS' application in the first round of stimulus funding for which it received $11,630,000 dollars to build a smart grid addition to its electrical and water departments. An attempt to add a computer center component to that earlier application was dropped; reportedly because there wasn't enough time to get it together and because there was trouble finding community institutions that could promise to sustain the new centers once the initial grant funding ran out.
The new effort, according to Terry Huval, LUS director, looks for locations already available within the Lafayette Consolidated Government such as those already available at library locations in public centers and space within public housing authority sites. It will also look at providing computers and network access to at-risk youth in underserved areas of the city. (Grant guidance for both computer centers and sustainability grants can be found online for those interested in thinking about the possibilities.)
During the brief council meeting at which the enabling ordinance was passed Councilman Theriot raised the question of the matching funds that the community would have to provide should this grant be won. Huval said that the grant was being designed so that the 20% match would be achieved by LUS' in-kind donations of bandwidth and connectivity. In discussion Councilman Bertrand and Huval raised the point that the city's investment in its fiber to the home network could be used to leverage federal money to help us "do some good things for our community."
Doing this right could help fulfill the promise that public ownership of the network could be used to help close the digital divide in Lafayette.