BTOP in Action

New laptops at the public library in Cherryfield, Maine

Maine State Library is demonstrating that public computer centers are sources of opportunity for state residents, particularly in a weak economy. The state has experienced its highest increase in unemployment in recent years among residents with the least education, and many job seekers do not have the experience or educational prerequisites to enter occupations with the largest share of openings. To help address some of these challenges, Maine State Library’s Information Commons Project is providing free broadband access, career development tools, and job search resources.

As of December 2011, the Information Commons Project delivered 565 new workstations to computer centers at 107 public libraries statewide. The project also established 11 video-conferencing regional hubs and three mobile computer labs to enable training for librarians and patrons in remote areas. Along with these new computer resources, the project created a web portal that brings together resources to help visitors learn new skills and get jobs. The portal, which can be accessed from home or at a public library, offers more than 80 free career and digital literacy courses, webinars, and resources. Additionally, the portal offers free access to the LearningExpress Library, a platform featuring more than 770 practice tests, tutorials, and e-books on job searches, workplace skills enhancement, GED exam preparation, certification and licensing exam preparation, and college and graduate school admissions exam preparation. The LearningExpress Library includes popular video-based tutorials on Microsoft® Office, Adobe® products, and other software used in the workplace today.

Maine State Library also provides on-site training for job seekers, in partnership with the Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Team. For example, on Dec. 14, 2011, McArthur Public Library in Biddeford hosted a training session for unemployed workers, including a group laid off by a local branch of a home improvement chain. The session gave an overview of the online resources available to job seekers, and covered topics such as interviewing skills, preparing for job fairs, and the use of social media during job searches. More sessions in libraries statewide are scheduled as the Maine State Library works with career centers, workforce investment boards, and public libraries to help residents develop practical skills to rejoin the workforce.

Last updated: January 10, 2012

A member of Maryland DoIT drills a hole in the ground to deploy fiber.

The Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) deployed more than 1,530 miles of fiber as part of the One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN) project. DoIT plans to deploy nearly 1,600 miles of fiber to provide affordable and abundant broadband services to each of Maryland’s 24 counties, many of which lack reliable and readily available broadband service necessary for cutting-edge economic development, public safety, and distance education initiatives. The project will link and extend three independent networks: the state-run networkMaryland; the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN), a 10-county consortium; and the Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MdBC), a rural non-profit carrier. Upon completion, the network will provide access to more than 1,080 community anchor institutions, including K-12 schools, public safety facilities, libraries, community colleges, and government facilities, offering speeds between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps.

A plowing and trenching crew installs fiber in a wooded area.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue left an MCNC-sponsored groundbreaking on October 8, 2010, with a unique keepsake: a plaque featuring the first optical fiber cable manufactured to support the state’s BTOP projects.

Manufactured at a North Carolina plant, the cable symbolized both the broadband improvements to come from the project and its economic benefits. MCNC estimates that the project will create more than 1,000 temporary engineering and construction jobs as well as approximately 10 permanent jobs to manage the fiber infrastructure expansion.

As of June 2013, MCNC deployed or upgraded 1,690 total miles of fiber in rural areas across North Carolina. The Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, funded by two BTOP grants, is an expansion of MCNC’s North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) that serves the entire public University of North Carolina system, all public K-12 schools in the state, a majority of the independent colleges and universities, and 20 of the 58 institutions in the North Carolina Community College System. MCNC aims to build a broadband infrastructure network that can scale for the future. The network will deliver speeds that will provide faster and more reliable connections for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities already on the network.

The NCREN is fulfilling growing bandwidth requirements of educational institutions, from faster speeds for students that need to download assignments to transporting large data between universities and research institutions. As a result of NTIA’s broadband investments in North Carolina, MCNC is working to ensure that 100 percent of schools in the state have 100 Mbps or greater connections and receive Internet access at a savings of 60 percent over retail rates. Joe Freddoso, MCNC president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said, “MCNC has built a network that will scale to the future to help all North Carolinians become better educated, healthier, more innovative, and otherwise thrive in the digital age.”

Photo: “MCNC BTOP in Action Governor Perdue Accepts Plaque”
Photo: “MCNC BTOP in Action Governor Perdue Answers Media”
Image: Merit Network crews begin to feed fiber into the conduit.

Merit Network, Inc. deployed more than 1,040 miles of fiber through June 2013 as part of its REACH-3MC project, a fiber-optic network funded by two BTOP grants that will provide rural Michigan communities with access to high-quality and high-speed Internet service. Part of this network includes fiber-optic cable crossing the Mackinaw Bridge that will connect Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and its more remote Upper Peninsula. Michigan’s public universities originally created Merit as a shared resource to help educational institutions meet their common need for state-of-the-art networking expertise and services. Merit has since implemented a 10 Gbps backbone to support the research and education needs of Michigan’s public university campuses.

Roger Rehm, chair of the Merit Board of Directors and Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Central Michigan University, said, “These are exciting times in higher education, and… Merit continues to position itself in the forefront of state research and educational networks and to underscore the competitiveness of higher education in the state of Michigan. These faster connections will more easily enable research partnerships and teaching collaborations… while the expanded bandwidth will provide the Michigan educational community with faster and more transparent access to educational programs and resources.”

Image: Merit Network community and state representatives participate in the grou
Construction workers lay fiber along Merit’s 2,287 mile fiber optic network
Workers discuss the positioning of a fiber-optic cable segment
A construction worker uses machinery to dig a hole to run fiber-optic cable
A group oversees Earthcom digging for Merit’s Network
Image: Merit Network crews begin to feed fiber into the conduit.

Merit Network, Inc. deployed more than 1,040 miles of fiber through June 2013 as part of its REACH-3MC project, a fiber-optic network funded by two BTOP grants that will provide rural Michigan communities with access to high-quality and high-speed Internet service. Part of this network includes fiber-optic cable crossing the Mackinaw Bridge that will connect Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and its more remote Upper Peninsula. Michigan’s public universities originally created Merit as a shared resource to help educational institutions meet their common need for state-of-the-art networking expertise and services. Merit has since implemented a 10 Gbps backbone to support the research and education needs of Michigan’s public university campuses.

Roger Rehm, chair of the Merit Board of Directors and Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Central Michigan University, said, “These are exciting times in higher education, and… Merit continues to position itself in the forefront of state research and educational networks and to underscore the competitiveness of higher education in the state of Michigan. These faster connections will more easily enable research partnerships and teaching collaborations… while the expanded bandwidth will provide the Michigan educational community with faster and more transparent access to educational programs and resources.”

Image: Merit Network community and state representatives participate in the grou
Construction workers lay fiber along Merit’s 2,287 mile fiber optic network
Workers discuss the positioning of a fiber-optic cable segment
A construction worker uses machinery to dig a hole to run fiber-optic cable
A group oversees Earthcom digging for Merit’s Network
MIGH students receive instruction at the Mendenhall computer lab at the MIGH

Digital illiteracy is a barrier to community participation and family progress for many adults across the country. The Mexican Institute of Greater Houston (MIGH) addresses this digital divide and also focuses on populations with an added barrier: English is their second language. MIGH’s goal is to engage these populations, as well as improve broadband adoption rates in the Greater Houston, Beaumont, Dallas, and San Antonio areas through broadband outreach and training for Hispanic and minority communities. The project is utilizing its network of more than 100 existing community centers, many located at K-12 public schools in the region, to conduct basic computer technology training sessions in Spanish for students and their families, as well as expanding the network to accommodate the program’s growth and development.

MIGH programs enrich the lives of Hispanic adults through education. Classes at Keeble Early Childhood/Pre-K Center began in February 2011. Students at the center are primarily young moms who want to learn how to use computers. The skills learned in the class help the mothers participate more actively in their children’s education and develop their own lives. Any MIGH student can also go to the Mendenhall computer laboratory for courses in basic computer skills, such as how to use word processing software, navigate the Internet, and open an e-mail account. Additionally, MIGH’s computer center open labs allow visitors to gain additional computer practice and knowledge.

MIGH students can visit one of the computer labs for courses in basic computer skills, such as how to use word processing software, navigate the Internet, and open an e-mail account. Additionally, MIGH’s computer labs allow visitors to gain additional computer practice and knowledge, helping many students find a job given their newly acquired skills. As of June 2013, the program has enrolled more than 2,000 students and recorded more than 4,400 new broadband subscribers.

Juan Eduardo Jiménez introduces the class to students at the Mendenhall computer
MIGH President and Executive Director, Carlos J. López, visited with students on

Michigan State University (MSU) celebrated the opening of a new BTOP-funded public computer center (PCC) on August 12, 2010, at Lake Superior Village Youth Center in Marquette, an underserved area with high unemployment. Community leaders, youth center staff, and government officials, including a representative from Congressman Bart Stupak’s office, attended the event. The new center includes a media lab with 16 workstations and provides computer access to low-income elementary and high school students participating in the center’s summer and after-school programs. MSU expected to complete three more PCCs by fall 2010. The project expects to add 500 new workstations at PCCs throughout the state, serving nearly 13,000 additional users per week. Major state government programs including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Michigan Works! Association are involved in the project for job retraining, and local and county government programs to expand training and business support services.

Last Updated: November 22, 2010

Construction along Route 40, Mount Airy, Virginia

In March 2011, the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (MBC) began construction on 422 miles of new fiber-optic infrastructure. MBC’s project, Middle Mile Expansion for Southern Virginia, is expanding an existing 800-mile network to connect approximately 120 K-12 schools, many in isolated areas.

MBC’s Southern Virginia project, encompassing 16 counties, is proceeding rapidly. At the end of August 2011, the project was already halfway done, with 212 miles of new fiber laid, along with two of four interconnection points completed. Additionally, in August, the school districts of Franklin County and Cumberland County opened their doors to K-12 students with classrooms equipped, for the first time, with high-speed Internet access. This new network is helping these schools enhance their educational curriculums to better meet the needs of today’s students. Cumberland County schools, for example, have gone from 45 Mbps to 100 Mbps, which allows video streaming without buffering, enhances online collaboration, and lays the foundation for virtual classrooms.

BTOP funds have allowed MBC to engage five contracting firms, which have hired 98 workers for construction crews. In addition, MBC has hired six people for various headquarters positions.

Last Updated: February 1, 2012

A MBC crew installs a pre-fabricated hut
A crew prepares to lay new fiber
Students attend one of MEDA’s digital literacy classes

Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)
To improve economic and social conditions in communities across the country, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) opened 18 public computer centers in 13 communities with a focus on helping entrepreneurs establish and grow small businesses. These centers provide free access to broadband, digital literacy classes, and technology workshops that help local residents take their ideas and expand them into productive, profitable entities.

BTOP funds have allowed the project to deploy approximately 350 new workstations that are used by participants in MEDA’s business development program. To people interested in owning or expanding a small business, the program offers workshops or one-on-one consultations on a variety of topics including capital assessment, business planning, budgeting, and marketing. Individuals who participate in this program are encouraged to take digital literacy classes to learn the computer skills needed to run a business most effectively.

MEDA’s computer centers also offer resources to help community members develop the skills needed to find and retain a job. Community members can participate in digital literacy classes, such as computer basics, Internet fundamentals, financial education, and online banking. Individuals can also receive assistance with resume creation, job searches, and interview preparation.

MEDA’s new computer centers are already helping new business owners to succeed. In Idaho, a local resident enrolled in MEDA’s business development program to learn how to grow her small film business. Through business marketing classes and tutoring sessions on Wix® Website Builder software, she was able to create a website and acquire a contract from a local band promoter to film music bands. In Los Angeles, an owner of a local party supplies company expanded the marketing reach of his company after taking digital literacy and advertising classes.

Last updated: April 17, 2012

Governor Perdue

The Mitchell County Historic Courthouse Foundation celebrated the dedication of the new county courthouse and its BTOP-funded public computer center (PCC) on May 2, 2010. More than 150 people, including two state legislators and a representative from the North Carolina governor’s office, viewed multi-media presentations using equipment from the PCC’s distance learning videoconferencing center. The PCC is one part of an overall effort to restore the original Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville, N.C. The other purpose of the Foundation is to improve the economic and quality of life conditions for the people of Mitchell County by converting the Historic Courthouse into a fully functional center for educational, cultural, and economic activity. The availability of computers will contribute to developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and attributes of a productive workforce.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011

BTOP in Action

A construction worker uses construction equipment to dig a hole for fiber. ION Hold Co., LLC transferred to ION NewCo Corp.

ION NewCo Corp. deployed approximately 210 miles of fiber this quarter. As of June 30, 2013, ION...

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