Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"City seeking $9.2 million in stimulus grants to address digital divide"

The Independent blog reports that LUS and LCG have submitted a pair of stimulus funding grant applications worth 9.2 million dollars that are directed at reducing Lafayette's digital divide. This has been a central issue in Lafayette for a long time and this is the first attempt to move beyond lower prices for better services as a way to close that divide. (See LPF digital divide coverage—LPF also offered some background on this grant application back in February when the authorizing ordinance was proposed.) The Library, the Housing Authority and Je'Nelle Chargois' Heritage School of the Arts and Technology are also partners. The grant money would come from the second round of BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunity Program) stimulus grants. LUS won a first round stimulus grant for its smart grid program back in February.

BTOP provides separate programs to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable broadband adoption projects. These two applications are for the computer center and the sustainable broadband adoption sections.

The coalition has applied for $3.9 millon to build out or expand public computer centers in the library, senior centers, and the Housing Authority. The money will be spent on new computers and personnel.

The second grant is focused on "sustainable broadband adoption." That's bureaucratese for finding ways to help folks who are not currently getting service or who underutilize service available to get up to speed. That one is worth $5.3 million and:
would go toward 55 direct or indirect jobs in providing 35,000 hours of computer training and 1,000 new PCs, as well as pay for two-year subscriptions to high speed Internet through LUS Fiber for graduates of the program.
Details on the plans for the training program would be very interesting.

The Independent is also the first local news source outside this blog to mention the community broadband survey that will be providing supporting evidence for this grant. Hopefully we will soon see the release of the study and the supporting dataset.

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