|Weekly News Digest
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Pilot Grant Program to Improve Internet Connections in Public Libraries
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org) announced a pilot initiative designed to help public libraries in seven states secure faster internet connections so more people can access a full range of online applications and opportunities. The foundation has awarded $6,959,771 in combined grant funding to Connected Nation (www.connectednation.com), a nonprofit broadband internet advocacy group, and the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP; www.ala.org) to support improved internet connections for public libraries in Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Virginia.
Connected Nation will receive $6,107,882 to help each pilot state organize and host a broadband summit to gather and activate public library leaders, state and local officials, and other influencers who can support broadband internet in libraries throughout each state.
OITP will receive $851,889 to provide research and expertise that will help state library agencies develop and begin to implement strategies to ensure library broadband connections are sustainable. OITP also will develop and disseminate case studies demonstrating how public libraries can successfully sustain broadband for patrons.
A recent report compiled by the American Library Association titled "Libraries Connect Communities" found that 73% of public libraries are the only source of free, public internet access in their communities. Despite overwhelming demand for technology services, up to a third of all public libraries have internet connections that are too slow to meet the everyday needs of their patrons.
Connected Nation, OITP, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will work with state library agencies to improve and sustain internet connections in all public libraries within the pilot states to at least 1.5Mbps, or faster wherever feasible. States selected for the pilot Opportunity Online broadband grant program had high concentrations of public libraries with internet speeds of less than 1.5Mbps; public policy support to increase broadband in public libraries; and state library agencies that had taken steps to improve and sustain quality internet connections in libraries. If the pilot broadband grant program yields positive results in the seven pilot states, the foundation may expand its support to a limited number of additional states.
Source: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
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