BTOP in Action

Photo – “County of Clackamas BTOP in Action Superintendent Linda Johnson”

“This is going to open the world to Colton,” said Colton School District Superintendent Linda Johnson, speaking at a September 2010 kick-off event for the Clackamas County (Oregon) Technology Services BTOP project. She went on to present a convincing portrayal of how expanded broadband access will change learning in Colton’s small, rural school district.

According to Ms. Jackson, the school district tried for several years to increase the available bandwidth and each time was stopped by the cost. Ms. Jackson explained that every school district in the county except Colton had access to educational resources that required high bandwidth. She described this as a handicap to both teachers and students, especially as the schools try to teach 21st century knowledge and skills.

Broadband will “enhance student learning, broaden student and community horizons, save taxpayer money, and, in turn, both save and create jobs,” said Ms. Johnson. She noted the following additional benefits in her remarks:
• High-quality video conferencing across the school district, the county, and the state.
• Reliable connectivity to support day-to-day activities such as standards-based testing.
• Cost savings through enhanced use of shared resources.
• Ability to streamline video into classrooms and libraries.

The event included tours of Clackamas Community College to demonstrate how broadband will enhance technology offerings in the county.

Last Updated: January 5, 2011

Photo – “County of Clackamas BTOP in Action Map of Clackamas”
Image: Construction workers review the plans at the site of the new computer lea

On January 24, 2011, the County of Crook celebrated the groundbreaking for its new 65-station computer learning center. Representatives from Oregon State University, Central Oregon Community College, Crook County Court, and the Partnership to End Poverty joined county officials to announce the start of construction on the facility that will open in August 2011. In an area hurt by layoffs, the $3.9 million Oregon Open Campus project, funded by BTOP, will allow students to learn necessary computer skills, prepare for college, and better meet the qualifications for working in the local business community. Currently, a total of 87 students are taking community-college-level classes at a temporary facility. These classes cover a wide-range of topics including math basics, writing skills, and business fundamentals. Once the new public computer center is open, the County will offer a mix of community college, upper division university, and professional development/lifelong learning classes for the community. These classes provide community members with the opportunity to advance their education without having to travel out of the community.

In addition, the project used BTOP funds to purchase a 32-foot motor home that it will remodel and open as a mobile computer center. Beginning in summer 2011, instructors will travel to rural areas and teach local communities using the mobile lab’s 12 stations. This lab can also serve as a mobile headquarters for emergency management officials, if necessary. The county has hired six full-time staff as instructors and to run the day-to-day operations of the center and plans to hire additional instructors.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011

A construction worker feeds fiber into the ground to connect a local school to I

Oconee County connected 70 community anchor institutions to its network through June 2013. The Oconee Fiber Optics Creating Unified Solutions (FOCUS) project, a public-private partnership between the county, the American Red Cross, several local small businesses, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, built a 245-mile fiber-optic network to serve rural community anchor institutions. Oconee FOCUS aimed to attract employers, promote public safety and health, and enhance educational opportunities through distance learning, virtual classes, and remote research.

Improving the quality of educational organizations in Oconee was one of the primary goals of the project. For example, South Carolina requires all students to electronically complete certain exams. However, many schools in Oconee County were unable to comply due to a lack of bandwidth. The Oconee FOCUS high-speed fiber network helped more than 20 schools to comply and provide students with the necessary level of support to successfully complete their education.

Workers install broadband equipment on a tower in Cayey, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s broadband Internet service was ranked the slowest after all states and the District of Columbia in a 2008 Communications Workers of America study. Critical Hub Networks’ Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative (PRBI) will reduce this digital divide by connecting the territory to faster and more affordable service. Prior to this initiative, Internet communication had to go through one Internet backbone to the Network Access Point of the Americas (NAP) in Miami, and then go back through the NAP to return information to an Internet user in Puerto Rico. With BTOP funds, Critical Hub purchased two 10 Gbps undersea fiber-optic cable lines, significantly increasing Internet capacity for Puerto Rico and lowering the costs of broadband service across the island. As of June 2013, Critical Hub Networks, Inc. had deployed more than 4,100 miles of network infrastructure.

Supporting the goal of using broadband to enhance the life of Puerto Ricans, Critical Hub established interconnection with the Puerto Rico Health Information Network (PRHIN). PRHIN is improving healthcare delivery on the island, serving as an electronic data exchange which will, among other things, allow Puerto Rico to establish, store, and transmit electronic health records. The infrastructure deployed by Critical Hub allows PRHIN to exchange data between doctors, laboratories, pharmacies, and other healthcare entities. Health Information Technology (HIT), which facilitates more affordable and higher quality healthcare services, is a key driving factor in the increase in broadband demand in Puerto Rico’s medical community.

An interpreter signs on camera at a studio at the Deaf Action Center.

The Deaf Action Center of Louisiana installed new videoconferencing stations and enhanced the user experience in Northwest Louisiana, as well as communities in Alabama, California, and Texas. Serving individuals that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, the project deployed more than 90 workstations and provided more than 5,700 hours of training.

Remote video interpreting enabled individuals that are deaf or hard-of-hearing to access sign language interpreting services. The state-of-the-art videoconferencing units were installed in courts, hospitals, and libraries, and the units linked to American Sign Language interpreters at Deaf Action Center’s offices. Using these interpreters to facilitate communication remotely saves the cost of mileage and travel time. The workstations are available 24 hours per day, and individuals can use them to access educational, legal, and business resources.

The Deaf Action Center also provided job skills training for people with hearing impairments and training for employers of workers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Continuing education instruction was available live and on demand for sign-language interpreters. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu stated, “Enhancing these services will allow the Deaf Action Center to improve delivery of health care information, legal services, job training, and education to people who are deaf by offering low-cost interpretation services. The funds will provide our hearing disabled citizens with job opportunities that might not have previously been available to them.”

Senator Carper speaks to job seekers sitting at tables with laptops.

The Delaware Department of State’s Division of Libraries is upgrading equipment and expanding training programs at libraries across the state. The computer centers at the Dover, Georgetown, Seaford, and Wilmington libraries serve as job and learning labs to help unemployed citizens learn resume building, job search, and interview skills. So far, the project has installed more than 150 new workstations. This quarter, staff at the Job Centers helped more than 1,800 visitors with job searches, applications, resumes, and other computer skills. In addition, 11,630 visitors participated in training classes such as Adult GED, job preparation workshops, and entrepreneurial workshops.

The Division of Libraries also developed an online Job & Career Accelerator that provides job search resources, including resume and cover letter assistance. One woman, for example, who had earned a college degree in her native country used the resources offered by the Seaford Job Center to secure a teaching position for English as a Second Language classes. “The Job Centers are equipping Delawareans with the tools they need to get back to work or to change careers,” said Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock. “We have already seen the positive effect they have had on numerous people. In some cases, people who took advantage of the resources available there were able to secure a job within days.”

A crane sets down one of the new buildings at DeltaCom’s Cleveland site

In May 2011, Deltacom, Inc., now an EarthLink Business company, completed Phase II of the Eastern Tennessee Middle Mile Fiber Broadband Project. Extending from Knoxville to Bristol, the 131 miles of newly lit fiber-optic cable is part of a BTOP-funded 544-mile network that will allow high-speed broadband connectivity to more than 34,000 households, 5,000 businesses, and 270 anchor institutions, including educational and healthcare facilities. The network will enable residents, businesses, and service providers to connect to the Internet with speeds up to 10 Gbps.

Phase I of construction wrapped up in March 2011 and included a 343-mile fiber-optic route from Nashville to Knoxville and Knoxville to Chattanooga.

Deltacom will start the final phase of the project in July 2011. This phase includes adding fiber to interconnection points that will bring new Internet connectivity to five underserved counties across East Tennessee. These interconnection points, located in Cookeville, Oak Ridge, Cleveland, Sweetwater, and Morristown, will allow local Internet providers to connect to EarthLink's IP network. Once the network is complete, EarthLink will market its full suite of services including carrier wholesale and retail services, in these new East Tennessee markets.

BTOP funds have also allowed Deltacom to hire vendors which created a total of 56 part-time employees, equivalent to 13 full-time staff members, for construction. Deltacom estimates that it will begin offering Internet service in the project area by December 2011.

Last Updated October 17, 2011.

Delta Com crew digging
Delta Com crew drilling
IMG: Crew members pour concrete at DeltaCom’s Blountville/Bristol site

The District of Columbia connected 260 community anchor institutions to its network as part of the DC Community Access Network (DC-CAN) project. The 195-mile high-speed middle mile network serves the city’s economically distressed areas, including approximately 55 schools, 20 libraries, 70 healthcare facilities, and 60 public safety sites.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Fire and Emergency Management Services (FEMS) are one core group that used the increased speed to improve communications and access to bandwidth-intensive applications. “As Internet use moves toward video and other data-intensive applications, this network is well-positioned to support such next-generation apps without the need for further infrastructure upgrades for at least a decade,” said DC Chief Technology Officer Rob Mancini. “By expanding to an established 100 Gbps platform, the District has invested in an efficient and economically viable solution based on proven technology.”

Students in school library view PowerPoint on computer skills

The Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District in Michigan emphasized computer usage in its classrooms to improve digital literacy among economically disadvantaged students and families in Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac Counties. The District encouraged more than 20,000 households to subscribe to broadband. The School District provided families with new computers to support students’ academic achievement, and educating teachers on how to integrate technology into their lesson plans and homework assignments.

The District believed that a key component of increasing digital literacy among students is to expand technology use in their classrooms. As part of the program, the school district hired an instructional technologist to help teachers identify ways to incorporate digital technology into their lesson plans and homework assignments. The schools now use cloud computing, educational websites, online lesson plans, and web-based software to administer quizzes and facilitate student-teacher communication outside of normal school hours.

Barbara Light, the district’s BTOP project director, said, “The impact of BTOP has been huge! It has provided both a catalyst for change and the means to make change. Due to the commitment of our teachers and administrators to 21st century teaching methods, the provision of computer netbooks, the support of our technology consortium staff, and the work of the instructional technologist, BTOP is transforming the way education happens in our classrooms.”

Hu Dao, a lab manager provides one-on-one computer help to a visitor

By November 2011, the EdLab Group’s Communities Connect Network Project (CCNP) upgraded 35 public computer centers throughout Washington State. These centers are being retrofitted to provide low-income families with direct access to computer resources, legal and health information, educational opportunities, and workforce development training.

BTOP funds allowed CCNP to deploy more than 93 new workstations, serving an average of 420 users per week. Along with these computers, CCNP is also partnering with 22 organizations to provide each center with services that meet the needs of its visitors. For example, at the Kalispel Tribal Court computer center, visitors can obtain online legal assistance, court records, and information about the law. Patrons can also communicate virtually with their legal counsel through Kalispel’s two videoconferencing stations.

Another partner, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle, is providing financial literacy training for staff members at eight computer centers in the city. Staff members learn concepts and techniques to teach local residents basic financial planning. Additionally, other partners are implementing digital literacy and career building classes on a variety of topics, such as basic computer skills, digital media editing, job search fundamentals, interview skills, and resume creation.

By the end of this BTOP project, CCNP will establish four new computer centers, upgrade 35 more, and distribute approximately 200 new workstations. To meet the needs of the state’s diverse population, CCNP offers its training classes in various languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali. EdLab has also created an online portal for its partners, providing them with a forum to exchange curriculum, share information, and access guidance on how to manage the centers. To view CCNP’s online portal, please visit here http://communitiesconnect.org.

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

BTOP in Action

El Paso’s mobile lab, housed in a converted mobile home. City of El Paso

As of June 2013, the City of El Paso, Texas deployed approximately 1,300 computer workstations...

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