BTOP in Action

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

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

ENMR crews drill a hole to install fiber at the project’s second market site.

On January 21, 2011, the ENMR Telephone Cooperative (ENMR) began laying 74 miles of new fiber in two of the five communities where it will deploy broadband service as a result of a BTOP grant. Extending through eastern New Mexico and west Texas, the network will bring broadband connections to more than 200 underserved anchor institutions, increasing Internet access speeds to 1Gbps at educational institutions, public safety organizations, healthcare facilities, and government agencies.

In all five markets, ENMR will provide new broadband fiber and connectivity service, delivering Internet at discounted rates to local rural schools, state agencies, and other anchor facilities. This new network will also expand distance learning opportunities for students at schools and libraries at rural areas.

As of March 2011, BTOP funds have allowed ENMR to install more than 29 miles of new fiber. ENMR has already negotiated its construction contracts and permits with equipment vendors and expects to start construction on the remaining three market areas by mid-May 2011. ENMR estimates it will complete construction on the entire project by January 2012.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011.

ENMR crews drill a hole to install fiber at the project’s second market site.

On January 21, 2011, the ENMR Telephone Cooperative (ENMR) began construction on a network of nearly 1,890 new and leased fiber miles. As of the project’s completion in January 2013, the network had connected nearly 270 underserved anchor institutions. Extending through eastern New Mexico and west Texas, the network increased Internet access speeds to 1Gbps at educational institutions, public safety organizations, healthcare facilities, and government agencies.
ENMR provided new broadband fiber and connectivity service, and delivered Internet at discounted rates to local rural schools, state agencies, and other anchor facilities. This new network also expanded distance learning opportunities for students at schools and libraries in rural areas.

Officials participate in Enventis’ groundbreaking ceremony

Enventis Telecom connected 16 community anchor institutions to its network through June 2013. Enventis’ Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative project deployed an open access network to bring affordable high-capacity Ethernet services to rural areas of Minnesota. The project expanded distance learning and training opportunities throughout the state. It also built a modern healthcare network that interconnected approximately 10 regional health clinics, enabling the use of telemedicine and electronic medical records. The network utilized more than 400 miles of new fiber-optic infrastructure to connect more than 80 anchor institutions across a 23-county area of the state. The K-12 public schools, public safety entities, libraries, community colleges, higher education institutions, healthcare facilities, and government facilities received Internet at speeds of up to 10Gbps.

Fayetteville State University and the Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority opened a new BTOP-funded public computer center (PCC) in North Carolina on August 16, 2010. State legislators, local officials, community leaders, and residents attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Community Computing & Learning Center, and Mayor Pro Tem D.J. Haire spoke about the importance of the project and its potential to transform lives. The new PCC is open to the general public and includes 10 workstations in an open-use area, and 20 additional workstations equipped with videoconferencing technology, as well as various group and one-on-one training courses. To see local news coverage, please visit here.

Last Updated: November 22, 2010

Construction workers bolt together sections of the wireless tower

First Step Internet deployed 551 miles of fiber, completed construction on nine microwave towers, and completed 72 fixed microwave paths through June 2013. The new 550-mile high-speed fiber network extends broadband Internet coverage across Idaho’s rural counties of Latah, Idaho, Clearwater, Lewis, and Nez Perce. First Step Internet also activated a wireless area network that covered more than 150 miles and connected approximately 45 community anchor institutions, including libraries, schools, health clinics, and government buildings. Once completed, the network will provide wireless Internet access to more than 20,000 households, 700 businesses, and 50 community anchor institutions.

First Step Internet’s network will also complement the Nez Perce Tribe’s BTOP grant that is providing high-speed, affordable broadband services across 1,200 square miles of tribal land. When completed, these two grants will provide complete broadband coverage for members of the tribe.

First Step Internet crew working in the snow
First Step Internet crew working in the snow
Construction crew members and Dave McGraw pose at the base of a tower
MESA students with their project evaluator Dr. Blanca Gordo at a launch event.

“If you give a student a laptop, you can’t stop him or her from learning,” said Foundation for California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott. California Connects, in partnership with community colleges and community-based organizations across an 18-county region in the Central Valley, is using BTOP funds to increase digital literacy skills and broadband adoption through providing outreach, training, and learning support to underserved communities.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges is partnering with more than 30 community colleges and other learning centers to implement the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program, a comprehensive training workshop helping students become digital literacy trainers for their communities. Students participating in the program receive free access to Microsoft® IT Academy training and on-campus certification exams. Students completing the coursework will also receive a free new laptop to help them teach computer skills to local community members. As of June 2013, the program has distributed 5,800 laptops to MESA students and recorded approximately 10,050 new broadband subscribers.

IMG: A group of children use computers at the Moorefield Computer Center

Future Generations Graduate School’s West Virginia project is using the community presence of fire stations across the state to increase broadband access. In a novel twist on the concept of community anchor institutions, Future Generations WV will use BTOP funds to outfit and open 60 computer centers in fire stations, with a focus on low-income counties. The project has already opened 30 centers in 18 counties. Currently, 26 centers hold basic computer skills classes, and educational partner organizations are contracted to run additional training on topics such as e-commerce, chronic disease self-management and substance abuse, and community-based emergency response and awareness. Many of the courses are offered as self-paced learning so that users can fit the training around their busy schedules.

FutureGenerations WV is using survey research in each community to assess needs and measure project impact. Eight surveyors conducted 900 door-to-door household surveys from July to November 2010. While 66 percent of the households owned computers, only 48 percent had access to broadband. Respondents noted that high costs and lack of access were two main reasons for not using broadband at home.

The volunteer fire departments and emergency rescue squads manage the centers and maintain at least one computer mentor at each center to assist the community in training and using the computers. The public computer centers have already proven particularly helpful in communities struggling with high unemployment. An unemployed paramedic commented, “I don’t feel I can afford the extra bill for the internet. I am in the process of completing online courses for the requirements of the nursing class I am pursuing. Upper Laurel has been such a blessing to me.” So far 783 West Virginians have been active users at the centers. Future Generations hopes that the centers will help residents to pursue higher education and retrain for job opportunities. In addition, volunteer fire department and rescue squads are learning to submit reports electronically and access supplemental online training programs for certifications and continued learning.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011.

Image: Caron Warner and Mary Ruth Raines ride a float to promote the new center
Image: Community members at the Matewan Computer Center
Image: Tom Simms assists Sandi Harkins during a computer training session
Image: Staff member conducts a survey with a community member
Peachy visits an elementary school in Ware County, Ga.

Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT) is using telemedicine to address poor health and the lack of high-quality healthcare in 91 of the state’s counties designated as having persistent poverty. Its BTOP-funded project, TeleConnect Georgia for Better Health, connected 64 additional healthcare sites statewide to its existing open access telehealth network. It also provided free access to videoconferencing and telemedicine equipment for more than 200 medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and public health departments.

GPT initiated a variety of outreach and awareness-building activities to demonstrate how state residents will benefit from this new network. For example, the program offered free online education to rural Georgia physician office employees. The courses covered areas such as health information technology, computer skills, and physician practice education.

Additionally, TeleConnect Georgia created Peachy, a mascot to help raise awareness about this new broadband network among young students and their families. During school visits, Peachy taught kids how to log on to the website to play games that promote healthy choices and habits. Approximately 4,900 people participated in BTOP-funded training classes.

The state residents who benefitted the most from access to this telehealth network were those who would not otherwise have had access to, or would have had to drive hours to see, a specialist. TeleConnect Georgia’s new network helped patients gain better access to specialty care services, reducing the number of acute care cases and keeping patients out of emergency rooms and hospitals.

IMG: Visitors gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony

It has been a busy winter for the Government of the District of Columbia BTOP project. The recipient created a new community computer center at the Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC) and reopened two existing centers after receiving BTOP funds. These centers are supporting a citywide initiative to provide affordable broadband and digital literacy training classes to low-income, unemployed District residents. Each center provides patrons with access to new computers, free Internet access, and digital literacy courses.

The new CCDC center houses 70 state-of-the-art computers and offers digital literacy and workforce development courses on a variety of topics including resume building, computer literacy, computer basics, online job search techniques, and Microsoft Office® software fundamentals. Visitors to the newly reopened Southeast Tennis and Learning Center will find 20 new computers that they can use to search for jobs, learn computer basics, and assist with homework assignments. The Petworth Library also recently reopened its doors to the public. BTOP Funding helped the library improve its broadband connection speed, acquire new state-of-the-art computers, and provide patrons with web-based courses that help job seekers earn a GED, learn basic computer skills, and prepare for professional exams.

The impact of the program will be felt across multiple communities. A total of 102 new computers have been distributed among six existing libraries. In particular, the new computers and broadband access have helped patrons at the Mt. Pleasant, Anacostia, and Capitol Hill Public Libraries use digital technology to search for jobs, pay bills, create resumes, and complete homework assignments. To see local news coverage, please visit here.

Last Updated: October 17, 2011.

BTOP in Action

A visitor to a senior center sits at a computer and uses assistive technology. City of New York

The City of New York’s Connected Communities project is upgrading and expanding computer centers...

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