Locke announces final $207 million in broadband grants

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced 14 stimulus grants worth $207 million aimed at expanding broadband Internet access and public computing centers on Monday.

The awards were the last of 233 projects funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which received $4 billion of the $7 billion set aside in the Recovery Act to expand broadband access. The last series of awards focuses on expanding public computing centers and providing training to increase digital literacy and prepare displaced workers for IT jobs.

“In a globalized 21st century economy, when you don’t have regular access to high-speed Internet, you don’t have access to all the educational, business and employment opportunities it provides,” Locke said. “These critical Recovery Act investments will create jobs and lay the groundwork for long-term sustainable economic growth in communities across America.”

All of the 233 BTOP projects must be substantially complete within two years and fully complete within three years. In total they will provide broadband access to 24,000 libraries, schools, community centers and other public locations. The program will also fund more than 3,500 new or upgraded public computing centers in those same community anchor institutions.

“NTIA’s work is far from over,” NTIA Lawrence Strickling said. “We will be overseeing these projects to ensure they are completed on schedule and within budget, and deliver the promised benefits to the communities they serve.”

Among the final awards is a $155 million grant to create a wireless broadband network for public safety officials in Los Angeles County and a $5 million grant to Michigan State University to train more than 3,000 high school students and displaced auto workers for broadband-related IT jobs.