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Gates Foundation to support state-level efforts to apply for federal broadband stimulus funds

Written on: January 5th, 2010 by: in Blog Posts


Earlier this month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a partnership with Delaware to help public libraries compete for broadband stimulus funds. The foundation’s Opportunity Online grant program will provide the Delaware Division of Libraries (DDL) technical and consulting assistance to develop competitive funding proposals for federal broadband stimulus funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), established through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Delaware will also receive federally required matching funds from the Gates Foundation, contingent on a successful BTOP award, and assistance to help secure additional federal E-rate funding to sustain future broadband connection costs.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans, often those with lower incomes and lower levels of education, still don’t have high-speed Internet access at home. In most communities (70 percent), the public library is the only provider of free Internet access available to residents.

These funds would help Delaware’s libraries accommodate patron demand for high-speed Internet access, which is growing faster than most libraries’ ability to provide increased bandwidth.

BTOP is expected to award federal stimulus grants to private and public sector applicants starting in early 2010 to expand broadband infrastructure to more communities across the country and to help new Internet users benefit from broadband access.

“In order for our libraries to be among the best in the country, we need to adapt to and meet the varied and changing needs of Delawareans,” said Lt. Governor Matthew Denn. “We are fortunate to be partnering with the Gates Foundation to produce a solid application for stimulus funds to meet these needs.”

The foundation solicited letters of interest for the Opportunity Online broadband grant program from the Delaware Division of Libraries (DDL) and other state library agencies seeking to acquire significant additional broadband access for targeted public libraries in their states. The foundation chose to support 14 states that articulated the most compelling and feasible projects aligned with the objectives of BTOP. The foundation also considered a state’s need for assistance in developing a competitive BTOP proposal.

All public libraries in Delaware have broadband connectivity. Funding from this grant will help maximize this access. DDL’s project, One Stop Access for Job Information, will involve all public libraries in the state, equipping them with videoconferencing equipment, job centers, training labs, workforce development training, wireless network access, and training for library staff.

“This project is perfectly aligned with our quality initiative,” said State Librarian Annie Norman. “It will add power to the library infrastructure by helping individuals and communities achieve their full potential.”

This initiative builds on and extends DDL’s participation in the Public Library Association’s Advocacy Training program, also funded by the Gates foundation. Following this training, DDL developed the Delaware Library Community Resources Exchange (CRE), a collaborative of over 100 agencies and non-profits who provide services to people in need. DDL will work with CRE partners, in particular the Delaware Workforce Investment Board, in implementing the training and job seeking aspects of the project. The Delaware Department of Technology and Information will partner with DDL on technology implementation.

The 14 other partner states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.