BTOP in Action

Library Trainer Crystal Schimpf gives a speech at the Miliken PCC launch

In a world where technology is key to creating opportunities, public computer centers are significant community assets. The Colorado State Library, operating under the Colorado Board of Education, is creating a culture of technology engagement through its public computer center project, Bridging the Great Digital Divide. The project is designed to improve lives by providing computers, training, and public awareness campaigns in 81 Colorado communities.

Since receiving its $2.3 million BTOP grant, and an additional $1 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and local libraries, the project has distributed more than $1 million to local libraries and the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, which has helped them purchase 681 laptops, 487 computers, and 59 tablet computers for community use and training efforts. Two library systems in High Plains and Lamar also hired three new staff to lead public training classes.

In April 2011, libraries began offering training on topics, such as basic computer skills, job skills, and Internet use. In the first three months, Colorado public computer centers offered more than 260 training classes to nearly 3,000 people. Local community partners also are working with the libraries to host training topics including workforce skills, business 2.0 development, and new immigrant literacy. In addition, the State Library staff developed a technology boot camp and curriculum to help library staff and community volunteers become more proficient in technology.

To further the goal of increasing broadband adoption, the State Library also developed a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage community members to visit the centers, take training classes, and adopt broadband. Libraries throughout the state will participate in the campaign by hosting local launch events with open houses and guest speakers. Twenty-seven public computer centers held events from April through June 2011, and additional events are planned for the coming months. The State Library staff also developed nationally recognized tools for gathering local statistics to evaluate the effectiveness of training and outreach.

Through the Bridging the Great Digital Divide project, Coloradoans will learn skills, access online education and health information and be able to participate more fully in the digital economy. Community agencies also can now offer training in ways they were not able to do so before, allowing citizens in remote parts of the state to stay connected with regional resources, such as workforce centers, small business development offices, and regional agricultural offices. Resources and opportunities provided by the Colorado State Library’s project can have a lasting impact on communities across the state.

Last Updated: October 14, 2011

Paul Paladino shows one of the new technology devices at Naturita Library
Red Feather Library Director Creed Kidd stands by the main computer use area
Cheyenne Mountain Library staff cut the ribbon on the new 20-laptop cart
Kersey Library Chair Kathy Berryman looks at the new computers
A wireless tower in Columbia County that provides public safety communications

On December 13, 2010, Columbia County initiated construction on 205 miles of fiber-optic network at a groundbreaking ceremony near the Columbia County Library in Evans, Ga. This library was the first Internet access point for the new broadband network and houses network servers.

Upon completion, Columbia County had connected nearly 100 community anchor institutions to its 205-mile, county-wide fiber middle mile network. The county improved access to healthcare, public safety, and government facilities, and provided dozens of free Wi-Fi hotspots to community locations, including parks, libraries, and community centers. The county constructed seven wireless towers (five are BTOP-funded) to improve wireless communications capabilities throughout the region.

One of the primary goals of the network was to enhance public safety communications in the county. Using the new towers, the county connected more than 30 public safety entities and also connected traffic devices, including stop lights, surveillance equipment, and notification boards, to the statewide Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to improve public safety and traffic flow along the major transportation corridors. The first entity to benefit from the high-speed access was the Sheriff’s Office. “This is 10 years in the making. This is huge…No matter where they are, with this portable radio, they’ve got coverage…It’s like going from a tin can and string to a real radio,” Sheriff Clay Whittle said.

IMG: A Columbia County truck lays down fiber optic lines
A Com Net crew member helps lay new fiber-optic cable lines in rural Ohio

Com Net’s GigE PLUS Availability Coalition project deployed more than 570 miles of new fiber through June 2013. These new miles are part of Com Net’s plans to install approximately 650 miles of high-capacity fiber-optic cable across 28 counties in western Ohio. Thirty workers are constructing the network that is expected to spur more affordable high-speed broadband access for approximately 737,000 households,165,000 businesses, and 2,900 institutions.

Underground construction started in the Wayne Trace Local School District, which includes a high school and two elementary schools. The area has some level of existing wireless Internet currently, but storms and high winds regularly knock out the service. Com Net’s underground broadband network will provide steady, reliable Internet service to these schools as well as the residents in this district.

Com Net’s network will also enable more than 300 public safety agencies to upgrade their radio towers and public safety answering points from T-1 lines to speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), so they can deploy next-generation devices and enhanced 911 capabilities.

Com Net crew members laying new fiber-optic cable in rural Ohio
A Com Net crew member lays new fiber-optic cable lines in rural Ohio
Photo: “Communication Service for the Deaf BTOP in Action Employee Contacting Cu

Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) opened its new contact center on December 6, 2010, in Sioux Falls, S.D. This center is supporting a nationwide initiative to provide discounted equipment, high-speed Internet access, and life-skills training to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Through the center’s American-Sign-Language (ASL)-trained staff, individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing will be able to purchase a video-configured Dell 11z notebook and a 3G/4G wireless Internet access plan for $230. The center’s website also contains 10 web-based “how to” training videos. Using ASL, the videos teach computer basics, technical troubleshooting solutions, and Internet search tips.

One focus of the center is to increase employment opportunities. The center will host several career training workshops, teaching interviewing skills and job search techniques for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The center is also creating 60 new positions for ASL-trained professionals, with 40 of those positions already filled by mid-December 2010.

CSD’s ultimate goal is to create easier, more effective communications methods for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. CSD anticipates that when the project is complete, nearly 16,000 people nationwide will have access to discounted computers, high-speed broadband, and life skills training. To see local news coverage, please visit here.

Last Updated: January 13, 2011

Image: A young student and her mom attend a Family Learning workshop.

CFY has held Family Learning Workshops for more than 30,000 students and parents in high-poverty middle schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District. CFY’s bilingual Family Learning Workshops teach low-income students and their parents about the educational uses of home technology and broadband. Parents and students are encouraged to work together and commit to an ongoing home learning effort. CFY provides participating families with a broadband-ready computer with pre-installed learning software, broadband enrollment guidance, and access to high-quality, online educational software focused on math, English, social studies, and science. CFY also provides training to teachers on leveraging educational software to extend learning into the home and drive student achievement.

During CFY's Los Angeles pilot program in 2009, approximately 600 families participated in the program with an attendance rate of approximately 70 percent due to limited funding. With BTOP funds, more than 5,000 families were able to participate the next school year, and workshop attendance averaged close to 85 percent.

The program will ultimately reach more than 34,000 low-income individuals and 15,000 households in the school district. As of June 2013, CFY has recorded more than 5,700 new household broadband subscribers.

An instructor teaches a local student during a computer basics course

Connect Arkansas held a variety of digital literacy and workforce development workshops for more than 445 people across the state. These BTOP-funded workshops were created to boost sustainable broadband adoption through a three-pronged approach, which targets low-income youth, student businesses, and healthcare providers. Connect Arkansas partners with several organizations to provide comprehensive training centered on computer basics, online entrepreneurship, and telehealth communication services.

For example, the University of Arkansas at Monticello provides a three-day technology course for students between kindergarten and the eighth grade, which is sponsored by Connect Arkansas. The course teaches students basic computer skills and Internet fundamentals. The course also educates students on productivity software they can use for homework, reports, and other school-related activities. As an added incentive, participating students who complete the course receive a free refurbished computer through Connect Arkansas. As of October 2011, the University has distributed approximately 130 personal computers.

To increase broadband adoption among teenagers, Connect Arkansas hosts an entrepreneurship training class using in-house resources. During the class, students learn business basics, ecommerce, website development skills, and how to market a business online. Participating students also create a prototype business website as their final project, allowing them to practice their newly acquired business techniques and web design skills. As of October 2011, more than 178 students have participated in this class.

Connect Arkansas also increases broadband usage among healthcare professionals. Through the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS), Connect Arkansas educates medical professionals on using broadband and video conferencing equipment to conduct distance learning and patient visits. These classes complement UAMS’s BTOP project, which is increasing broadband capacity and installing video conferencing equipment at 474 healthcare, medical offices, and research facilities in Arkansas.

Through these classes, Connect Arkansas and its partners have been able to create 10 instructor positions. Funded by BTOP, these employees are responsible for administering these training classes across 57 Arkansas counties.

Last Updated: December 7, 2011

A Connect Arkansas employee delivers a shipment of refurbished computers
Image: Tracey Roberson, Connected Living Training & Operations Director, engages

MyWay Village opened computer learning centers in 16 senior citizen housing communities across Northern Illinois after receiving BTOP funds. These centers are supporting a statewide initiative to provide affordable Internet and computer skills training to low-income seniors. Besides access to computer labs, residents also receive free Internet service in their apartments and computer training classes. Residents can attend classes on a variety of topics including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, advanced Internet searching techniques, open office software, and webpage design. As an added incentive, individuals who complete 12 hours of training receive a free personal computer.

BTOP funds have allowed the project to create 24 new jobs. Hired as Computer Program Managers, new staff members manage the computer labs and provide instruction for training classes. Additionally, the funds have provided residents with new computers, cameras, scanners, and printers.

The impact of the project can be felt across multiple housing communities. A total of 690 building tenants have enrolled in training classes, with many more scheduled to register. The organization, which is in the process of changing its name to ConnectedLiving, Inc., has helped residents use digital technology to connect with family members and access health information online. The impact of the project is evident at The Grundy Housing Authority, where BTOP funds have drastically changed the lives of the community residents. To experience this impact up close, watch Grundy Housing Authority’s video.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011

Image: Two instructors lead an Internet fundamentals course

Connect Ohio opened its new call center on December 13, 2010. The center is supporting a statewide initiative to provide free computer skills classes at local libraries and community colleges. State residents can obtain class schedules, find local training centers, and learn about their local broadband providers through a customer representative or an automated service.

BTOP funds have allowed Connect Ohio to provide libraries and community colleges with training curriculum, instructors, and public outreach materials. The program uses a variety of interactive and hands-on workshops to teach computer basics, Internet fundamentals, and advanced Internet searching techniques to Ohio’s economically vulnerable residents. Residents who are unable to attend classes in person can also participate in self-paced training courses online via Connect Ohio’s website. A total of 314 residents completed training in January 2011 and more than 1,142 people have registered for classes in February 2011.

Connect Ohio has also launched an innovative outreach campaign to promote the benefits of broadband and its training courses in the community. A subsidiary of Connected Nation, Connect Ohio is also creating a total of 136 new jobs across the state. As of January 2011, Connect Ohio has filled 40 of these positions.
Last Updated: October 14, 2011.

Image: A man uses a computer at a computer training course
Image: A woman listens intently during a computer basics class
Image: Visitors explore the Internet during a computer class
A Boys & Girls Club Youth member hard at work on a computer

By late December 2011, Connected Tennessee’s Computers 4 Kids: Preparing Tennessee’s Next Generation for Success program distributed approximately 1,400 computers to 76 Boys & Girls Clubs (BGCs) in Tennessee and nine regional sectors of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), the state’s child welfare agency. These computers are part of the project’s effort to provide computers and training to more than 60,000 disadvantaged youth across the state.

Connected Tennessee’s ultimate goal is to help children with limited access to broadband develop the skills needed for today’s economy. In addition to new workstations, Computers 4 Kids also provides digital literacy classes on a wide variety of subjects, including computer basics, web design, digital photography, digital moviemaking, animation, game design, and web safety. Through this potent combination of computer resources, academic support programs, and broadband awareness, Computer 4 Kids is seeing a drastic increase in home broadband adoption among low-income and minority families.

Last updated: January 4, 2012

Connected Tennessee staff with a Computer 4 Kids member
Boys & Girls Club winner with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett
A group of Computer 4 Kids participants at the Jackson Department event
Two men standing with multiple spools of fiber-optic cable.

Contact Network connected nearly 140 community anchor institutions to its network through June 2013, using funds from its two BTOP awards. Contact Network is deploying a 964-mile broadband network throughout 12 economically distressed counties in the Mississippi Delta region where anchor institutions currently lack the bandwidth necessary to enable distance learning, telemedicine, and enhanced public safety applications. In addition, the organization is working with key state agencies, including the Mississippi Department of Transportation and various public safety entities, in a public-private partnership to expand high-speed Internet access in 16 counties in southern and central Mississippi. The network in those counties will utilize more than 670 miles of new fiber-optic infrastructure and more than 260 miles of leased fiber.

BTOP in Action

Workers install broadband equipment on a tower in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Critical Hub Networks, Inc.

Puerto Rico’s broadband Internet service was ranked the slowest after all states and the...

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