Technical.ly Philly

Sep. 22, 2009 4:32 pm

City of Philadelphia requests $35 million in federal broadband stimulus application

The City of Philadelphia hopes that federal agencies awarding federal broadband stimulus grants will fund $35 million to its Digital Philadelphia Broadband Initiative, according to documents published by the National Telecommunications Information Administration. Executive summaries detailing combined applications between the Division of Technology and the Free Library of Philadelphia call for $21 million for middle […]

The City of Philadelphia hopes that federal agencies awarding federal broadband stimulus grants will fund $35 million to its Digital Philadelphia Broadband Initiative, according to documents published by the National Telecommunications Information Administration.

Executive summaries detailing combined applications between the Division of Technology and the Free Library of Philadelphia call for $21 million for middle mile infrastructure and $14 million for adoption programs.

“The 21st century will undoubtedly be defined by the advent of the digital age,” the Free Library’s application stated. “However, in Philadelphia 41 percent of residents do not have Internet access at home and are being left behind without the ability to connect with job opportunities, healthcare information or educational resources.”

Several other Philadelphia-based organizations, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Philadelphia Prison Society and the Delaware County Library System also submitted applications for stimulus funds, documents reveal.

Central to the library’s $14 million application is that it would redesign its Web site as a city-wide portal that would connect users with community organizations, businesses and government agencies. Computer literacy training videos would also be available. By working with partners like Digital Impact Group, Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia FIGHT and others, the Free Library’s adoption program hopes to connect 50,000 individuals through computer literacy instruction, free Internet subscriptions and access to public computers.

There were few surprises in the city’s $21 million middle-mile application. As we reported in our comprehensive Digital Philadelphia Vision package, Philadelphia hopes to build a hybrid mesh network that utilizes city infrastructure to connect a large number of city partners with access to the digitally divided community.

A request to the Free Library for a copy of its complete application was directed to the city’s Division of Technology. Repeated calls to the Division of Technology for copies of both complete applications were not returned.

City Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank is scheduled to speak about Digital Philadelphia at a public broadband policy panel this evening, as we reported.

Under the moniker of Digital Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Authority applied for $2.4 million to create computer centers in underserved communities, PHA Coordinator for Economic Programs Virginius Bragg tells Technically Philly.

The agency decided to submit an independent application – which utilized the language of Digital Philadelphia to stand out to reviewers – after the City decided to wait until the second round of funding to focus on an application for computer centers.

In addition, Wilco Electronic Systems, a private Fort Washington-based cable operator applied for $31 million in grants on behalf of PHA, including a $21 million middle-mile project that would create a fiber network for public housing residents and $9.5 million for adoption and computer center grants.

The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation requested $1.5 million to create a kitchen and computer lab hybrid for food entrepreneurs. The Philadelphia Prison Society hopes to create five computer labs and to train inmates in computer literacy with the $1.2 million it asked for.

The Delaware County Library System requested a modest $300,000 to create a fiber optic network to connect 11 of 29 library locations currently without broadband connectivity. Mt. Airy Community Services Corporation would require $96,800 to build a computer training center for unemployed ex-offenders.

The NTIA received bids from 2,200 applicants, which requested approximately $28 billion for broadband projects in the first round of funding, PC World reports, though the federal agency will award only $4.6 billion.

Finalists are expected to be announced in a timely manner, but the NTIA has not announced a timetable for that decision, Broadcasting Cable reports.

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Brian James Kirk

Brian James Kirk is a cofounder of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. Previously, Kirk was Web Editor of PlanPhilly, an independent online news resource covering planning and development issues in Philadelphia, and a freelance writer and designer. He resides in South Philadelphia.

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