Libraries Get Broadband Stimulus Grants

December 21, 2009

Libraries in six states are among the beneficiaries of the first round of awards from the $7.2-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act broadband grant and loan programs. The initial $183 million in awards, going to 18 broadband projects in 17 states, was announced by Vice President Joseph Biden December 17 and detailed in a National Economic Council report (PDF file) issued that same day. Altogether, $2 billion will be released by early March, according to a White House press release.

Coincidentally, Biden’s announcement came two weeks after the American Library Association submitted comments (PDF file) to the Federal Communications Commission about libraries’ pivotal role in bridging the digital divide.

The awards are comprised of $121.6 million for “middle mile” projects that connect communities to broadband services; $51.4 million for “last mile” projects that connect end users such as homes, schools, libraries, or businesses to the middle mile; $7.3 million for public computing; and $2.4 million for sustainable adoption of broadband services.

Funding involving libraries in this initial round included:

  • a $1.5-million sustainable broadband adoption grant (with an additional $591,000 in matching funds) to the New Mexico State Library to increase broadband adoption and promote computer literacy and internet use statewide. The Associated Press reported that the program will provide small-group training at libraries in 15 communities, plus training offered by the state library to small organizations and business owners;
  • a $1.3-million public computing grant (with matching funds of $320,000) to the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records to enhance existing facilities in more than 80 public libraries throughout the state;
  • a $1.9-million public computing grant (with matching funds of $477,000) to the city of Boston to expand computer and internet capacity at the main library and 25 branches, 16 community centers, and 11 public housing sites;
  • a $39.7-million middle-mile grant (with matching funds of $9.9 million) to telecommunications firm ION Hold Co., LLC, to build 10 new segments of fiber-optic, middle-mile broadband infrastructure that will connect more than 100 institutions—including libraries, state and community colleges, and health clinics—as well as households and businesses, in more than 70 rural communities in upstate New York and parts of Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Biden made the announcement at Impulse Manufacturing, a technologically advanced metalworks plant in Dawsonville, Georgia, which has been hindered by the lack of broadband in its part of the state, the AP reported. He told a crowd of workers, business leaders, and officials that the networks could help smaller businesses compete globally. “We’re forming the tools that will fashion the work of the 21st century,” he said. “We are laying the foundation for the economy of tomorrow.”