In an effort to expand broadband access and create jobs across the United States, President Obama has announced the awarding of $765-million in grants and loans to recipients that include public and private colleges.
The money, distributed through the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture, will go to 66 projects led by colleges, Internet-service providers, libraries, communication companies, and counties. All pledge to stimulate the economy by expanding high-speed Internet to neglected communities.
“This is going to have an enormous impact on the country,” said Gary Bachula, vice president for external relations at Interne 2, the high-speed networking consortium for colleges and universities.
Internet2 received $62.5-million to expand its research-and-education network to include more than 100,000 “community anchor” institutions, like colleges, libraries, and hospitals.
“We think that these technologies are capable of literally transforming the way health care is delivered, transforming the way education is delivered, completely changing the nature of how a community uses their library to be plugged into the world,” Mr. Bachula said.
High-speed Internet, he said, will give rural communities more tools for education and better access to health care. “All of that has an effect on moving the economy forward,” he said.
The Obama administration expects that the spending will immediately create about 5,000 jobs and generate tens of thousands more in the future.
The University System of New Hampshire, which received $44.5-million, estimated that it would create aabout 700 jobs through its “Network NH Now” project, which will make broadband service available to households and businesses.
The New Jersey State Library received $5.1-million to add computers and upgrade connectivity in libraries across the state, with the intention of providing job-search assistance.
“Access to computers and broadband Internet are a basic requirement for job searches, employment applications, and work-force skills training,” said Norma Blake, the New Jersey State Librarian, in a prepared statement.
Oklahoma City University received a $1.4-million grant to expand broadband access for such services as online GED completion and instruction in English as a second language.
“We do have a very high unemployment rate, a very low income rate, and relative to other areas of the city, a lower education rate,” said Teena Belcik, a strategic-project consultant at the university. “That vulnerable population often does not have access to the kinds of technologies that many people in the city otherwise would have, and those are the people that tend to need it the most.”
Mr. Bachula said he expected high-speed Internet access to have a transformative effect on the economy. He cited past investments in technology, which led to a wave of new businesses and phenomena like Facebook and YouTube.
“We can’t even imagine the kinds of really big developments once you put the tools in the hands of the people,” he said.