High-speed Internet. Some people may take their high-speed Internet access for granted, but some Americans are unable to connect to the Internet with anything faster than a dial-up modem. Yes, dial-up modems still exist and for many communities here in the United States, they are the only way that people can access the Internet and all of its wonderful resources. In order to help these communities expand their technology offerings, the Recovery Act has set aside $7.2 billion in funding for broadband expansion programs and the first round of awards was recently announced.
In mid-December, Vice President Joe Biden announced that $183 million in funding was awarded to 18 projects in 17 states. In addition to the $183 million from the Recovery Act, $46 million in matching funds was also raised bringing the total amount being infused into these 18 projects to nearly $230 million.
“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world,” said Vice President Biden. “This is what the Recovery Act is all about — sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st-century.” Source: White House
The $183 million in award money was separated into four different categories:
• Middle Mile Awards: These awards will go to communities that don’t already have an adequate broadband infrastructure.
• Last Mile Awards: Awards are made to communities that have existing broadband access but need to connect end users to the community infrastructure.
• Public Computing: Projects receiving public computing award monies including libraries and higher educational institutions.
• Sustainable Adoption: These awards are dedicated to promoting broadband use in underserved population groups.
Projects in Georgia, Maine, New York, and South Dakota received Middle Mile Awards. Several states received funding in both the Last Mile and Middle Mile categories: Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado/Nebraska, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
Public computing projects in Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington were funded and Sustainable Broadband Adoption awards were made in New Mexico and Washington.
Improving broadband Internet access in rural areas opens up many new doors for residents of these communities. For example, unemployed workers in communities that may be severely affected by the jobs crisis can now look at telecommuting and other online job opportunities to fill the gap until stable local employment can be obtained.