BTOP in Action

Cable

SDN Communications is moving swiftly to deploy the state’s new middle mile network before the ground freezes this winter. Throughout South Dakota, SDN crews are hard at work deploying a network that is the core of a $25 million investment to connect more than 300 anchor institutions – schools, hospitals, public safety agencies, and government offices – in 75 South Dakota communities.

SDN has two years to complete connectivity, an aggressive timeline since South Dakota winters will halt construction for four months a year. One of the first BTOP infrastructure recipients to break ground, the company put an estimated 50 construction workers on the job, not to mention the administrative workers and consultants managing the projects. Work started in Rapid City in August, and crews broke ground in Vermillion, Watertown, and Yankton in September. Vermillion’s nine anchor institutions will be service-ready by mid-November. The other three communities will be ready by year’s end.

To see local news coverage, please visit here. To experience the impact of the project up close, watch SDN’s BTOP Stimulus Project video.

Last Updated: May 9, 2011.

Construction
Ground breaking
Mayor Jack Powell
State Library offers online digital literacy classes

The State Library of Louisiana’s BTOP project, “Louisiana Libraries: Connecting People to Their Potential,” has held more than 1,200 free digital literacy and software classes and will supply 640 laptop computers to libraries throughout the state by the end of the year. With these efforts, the State Library seeks to improve the workforce skills of Louisiana citizens and provide a solid economic foundation for strengthening Louisiana communities.

The free classes offer provide workers and job seekers the technology skills needed to succeed in the digital economy, including professional-grade classes in the most widely used business software, such as Microsoft® Office, Adobe® Creative Suite, and Quicken®. Louisianans also can take business skills classes to improve their proficiency on topics like Getting Your Job Search Started, Mastering the Interview, and Business Etiquette. Additional training helps people make maximum use of technology with classes in Computer Foundations, Introduction to Home Wireless Setup, and Home Computer Security.

In addition to the classes, the State Library will deploy 10 Internet-ready laptops to each parish, so citizens can borrow them through their local library and connect to any hot spot to get online. The primary goal is to promote broadband use so that citizens may become comfortable and familiar with this technology. The State Library also created the Louisiana Jobs & Career Center website, www.lajacc.org, which offers career tools and displays searchable job postings for the public.

Last Updated October 18, 2011.

State Library’s searchable job posting site
Two technicians install a SmartUnit computer kiosk into a housing unit.

“Having access to the Internet is like having a stove or refrigerator or a phone. You can’t function with it,” said Jerome Ryans, President and CEO of Tampa Housing Authority (THA). THA is turning this idea into a reality at its 23 housing sites in Tampa, Fla. As part of its AccessALL Tampa project, THA has turned on Internet access in all of the area’s 3,554 public housing and low-income housing units.

Since receiving a $2.1 million BTOP grant in August 2010, over 150 residents have completed THA’s “Intro to Microsoft Windows 7®” course. An additional 200 students are enrolled in sessions beginning in April 2011. Instructors provide individualized attention to small classes of 15 or 20 students encouraging them to interact and ask questions. A total of 68 students are enrolled in an A+ Certification program, a course designed to teach students how to configure, troubleshoot, install, and upgrade computers. THA hopes these training courses will not only increase broadband adoption, but also provide tenants with marketable skills to increase their employability.

In keeping with the idea of a computer as an appliance, THA is also implementing a SmartUnit pilot program in 197 housing units. Computers are being installed at permanent kiosks in each of the participating units. Tenants in these units are required to attend a six-week introduction to Microsoft Windows 7®. The course also includes Internet safety information targeted towards parents since many of the SmartUnits house families with young children. As part of the pilot program, THA is conducting a survey of school children to determine how access to a computer and the Internet at home affects grades. THA is surveying grades received prior to installing the computer kiosks and plans to compare them to grades received in subsequent semesters. THA hopes that broadband and computer access will have a significantly positive impact on the grades of students living in SmartUnit communities.

Last Updated: October 18, 2011.

A student learns computer basics on a new workstation

In 2011, Technology for All’s (TFA) Texas Connects Coalition project created or refurbished 71 public computer centers. These centers are a part of a statewide campaign to help those without access to computers and the Internet acquire the digital literacy skills needed to participate in today’s modern workforce.

Using BTOP funds, TFA has been able to make available approximately 350 computers to underserved community members, providing free Internet access to an average of 13,600 users per week. Along with free computer access, the centers provide a variety of resources to help local residents develop technology skills that will make them more competitive in the job market. The centers offer workforce development assistance for resume creation, job searches, and interview preparation. The centers also provide classes covering topics such as computer basics, Internet fundamentals, word processing, and business software, such as Microsoft® Office.

TFA’s job training efforts are already making a huge impact on Texas residents. More than 46,000 students have participated in TFA’s classes. According to TFA, in many communities, residents are using their newly developed computer skills to find and retain jobs. For example, a single parent who was on a fixed income and could not to purchase a computer or broadband service for her home was able to use a TFA center in Houston, Texas, to connect to the Internet. At the center, she developed computer skills, and learned how to update her resume and search online for employment opportunities.

Last updated: April 17, 2012

Visitors use new workstations at one of Technology for All’s upgraded centers
A group of visitors use the Smithville Public Library computers

As of July 2011, the Texas State Library & Archives Commission has upgraded public computer centers at 11 libraries throughout the state. Known as the Technology Expertise, Access and Learning for all Texans (TEAL) project, this initiative is providing computer access and training opportunities for the state’s most underserved populations across 38 partnering library systems. BTOP funds already have helped these learning institutions replace 153 existing computers and deploy an additional 163 workstations, connecting an average of 3,500 users per week to online resources.

TEAL also offers professional development webinars for library staff. These webinars provide librarians with tools and techniques to manage and promote computer resources, enabling libraries to better meet patrons’ technology needs. To date, TEAL has facilitated 10 webinars for approximately 744 library staff members, helping them improve their understanding of technology to boost sustainable broadband adoption. TEAL offers webinars on a variety of topics including a series on how to promote and teach computer technology with seniors and people with disabilities. TEAL also partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to create a series of workforce skills webinars, teaching librarians how to help library patrons with their job searches and career development.

TEAL is using approximately $8 million in BTOP funds and $3.7 million in non-Federal matching funds to provide 2,200 new workstations in 155 new or upgraded public computer centers and directly create more than 100 full- and part-time jobs. As of July 2011, BTOP funds have allowed the Texas State Library & Archives Commission to hire four full-time employees to conduct training workshops and help manage the public computer resources. To see local media coverage, please visit The Smithville Times.

Last Updated: October 18, 2011

A construction worker drills a hole outside a building.

The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System connected 92 community anchor institutions to Metropolitan Unified Fiber Network (MUFN) through June 2013. The 130-mile network connected schools, public safety organizations, and a community college to new fiber-optic infrastructure. The new access will allow ambulances to send patient information to hospitals en route, clinics and hospitals to access electronic health records, and students to share information and resources between campuses.

The network provides high-capacity broadband Internet connections for community anchor institutions, and enable broadband services throughout the Madison, Middleton, and Monona, Wisconsin regions. In addition, the University of Wisconsin System hopes to spur new or improved broadband Internet access for local residents and businesses, including as many as 47,000 households and 5,000 businesses, by enabling Internet service providers to connect to the project’s open network.

Mayor Michael Nutter and Congressman Bob Brady

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter helped launch the Freedom Rings Partnership at the April 26, 2011, official opening of the FIGHT Computing Center, the first of the project’s 77 public computer centers to provide digital literacy and workforce training opportunities.
FIGHT is one of 13 local agencies working with the city’s Division of Technology to provide broadband Internet access, computers, and training to Philadelphia’s most economically and socially vulnerable populations. The Urban Affairs Coalition, a lead partner in this initiative, will provide computer and technology training opportunities at many computer center locations.

The Freedom Rings Partnership plans to create 177 full-time and part-time jobs. The 77 computer centers will include 19 recreation centers, 29 community-based organization sites working with high-risk populations, 10 homeless shelters, 15 other affordable housing sites, and four mobile labs that will reach communities lacking space or the capacity to house a computer center.

In addition to services provided at citywide computer centers, the Freedom Rings Partnership will encourage Philadelphians to “get connected” to technology in their homes. The participating partners expect to serve approximately 15,000 people per year and use a citywide outreach campaign to deliver information about the importance of broadband technology to more than 100,000 households.

To see local media coverage of the April 26 event, please visit The Philadelphia Inquirer. To read the mayor’s official report about the Recovery Act at work in Philadelphia, please visit here.

Last Updated: October 19, 2011.

volunteers refurbishing computers
Mayor Nutter speaking
Mayor Michael Nutter and Congressman Bob Brady join ARRA-funded employees
Mayor Nutter, Congressman Brady, and various Program Directors
Two FIGHT computer instructors lead participants
Ribbon cutting

BTOP recipient Tincan celebrated the opening of its new media lab and film production facility on June 8, 2010, in Spokane, Wash. Over 200 people attended the opening ceremony and open house, including mayors from nearby towns and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and others. Many local businesses and vendors also participated. The new space will house the Tincan offices, a 32-computer media lab for training and workshops, and a full professional video production studio. As of October 2010, Tincan had distributed computers and software to Peaceful Valley Community Center, Northeast Community Center, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Outreach Center for public access use. These locations and others will provide access to the Internet for people who do not otherwise have access, and new spaces where Tincan can provide training in Internet skills.

Last Updated: October 18, 2011

computers

The Nebraska Library Commission upgraded more than 140 PCCs at libraries throughout the state. These new resources provide computer access, employment resources, and assistance with government services for communities with low broadband penetration and median incomes below the national average. As of June 30, 2013, the commission deployed approximately 735 new workstations. Fifty libraries upgraded their broadband speeds as a result of equipment and assistance provided by the commission. At these upgraded facilities, the average speed increased from 1.8 to 7.4 Mbps. Along with these new computer resources, the commission also used BTOP funds to conduct new digital literacy and workforce training, providing a wide variety of classes and support including computer basics, job searching, and resume creation. Through June 2013, more than 27,000 users on average visited the libraries each week, and more than 30,000 residents participated in training.

Henry Garcia teaches students computer basics at South Brunswick Public Library

The New Jersey State Library (NJSL), an affiliate of Thomas Edison State College, enrolled more than 6,500 students in more than 2,800 hours of job-readiness computer skills workshops in public libraries across New Jersey. This initiative is designed to help unemployed and underemployed residents acquire the skills needed to find and retain a job. The libraries are providing free access to broadband, workforce development classes, and career advancement tools.

NJSL used BTOP funds to deploy more than 845 new computers at 125 public libraries and upgrade broadband connectivity at 86 public libraries. Along with free access to these workstations, the libraries offer workforce development classes on topics such as computer fundamentals, resume and cover letter techniques, job search fundamentals, and email basics. The libraries also provide free access to career databases and applications that help users explore careers, find and apply for jobs, improve interviewing skills, and track job search progress.

NJSL also provides resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs to foster entrepreneurship, and help existing businesses make lasting and substantial improvements in their performance. At the libraries, community residents can access online business and marketing tools and in-depth market research reports.

In addition to job training classes for residents, NJSL is partnering with the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development to provide professional development workshops and specialized training for library staff members seeking to advance their careers. Librarians learn techniques for managing computer resources, allowing them to better meet their patrons’ technology requests. NJSL has conducted 221 hours of training for its library staff and more than 20 hours of in-person workshops for approximately 100 librarians on how to use career tools and applications that can help library patrons.

Local librarians have seen many of their patrons acquire jobs after taking career building and digital literacy courses. For example, a visitor to the Mount Laurel Public Library lost his job in 2008. He enrolled in the library’s workforce development workshops in 2010 and, using skills he learned in the workshops, was able to find a new job online. A resident of Garfield, N.J., also took a computer course at the Garfield Public Library, acquiring computer skills that she needed to obtain a part-time position as a Product Demonstrator. Libraries across the state are seeing similar successes of how broadband can improve a person’s economic situation.

Last updated: April 17, 2012.

Laurie Steidle teaches online job search techniques at a public library
Lisa Kenneweg, a workforce skills workshop instructor, teaches resume techniques

BTOP in Action

An Idaho Youth Corps member helps students search the Internet Idaho Commission for Libraries

By late August 2011, the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) upgraded public computer centers...

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