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Commerce Department's NTIA Announces Recovery Act Investments to Expand Broadband Internet Access in North Carolina and Washington; Projects Will Increase Access to Justice

September 16, 2010
News Media Contact
Moira Vahey

WASHINGTON -- The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments, totaling $6.1 million in grants, to help bridge the technological divide, improve education, and increase access to legal services in North Carolina and Washington.

 "These Recovery Act investments illustrate how broadband technology can not only expand economic and educational opportunities, but it can also make the justice system more accessible to the public," Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling said.

North Carolina Central University's School of Law will receive a nearly $2 million grant to upgrade broadband service while expanding access to its legal education programs. The project will use videoconferencing to bring low-income residents greater access to legal services and extend classes to four partner Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 22 legal assistance sites. The project also plans to hold legal writing seminars for undergraduates to better prepare them for law school and increase minority representation in the legal profession, as well as to provide legal classes geared towards middle and high school students.

The Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology will receive a $4.1 million grant to expand or upgrade 39 public computer centers in Washington State. This includes partnering with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington's publicly funded legal aid program, to establish public computer centers in five rural courts, including the Kalispel tribal court, where the public can access online legal resources and other services. The project also plans enhanced training offerings for economically vulnerable populations, including courses addressing GED test preparation, digital literacy, job searches, and financial education.

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service are administering a nearly $7 billion Recovery Act initiative to expand access to and adoption of broadband services. NTIA is utilizing approximately $4 billion of that funding for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service.

Today's announcement is part of the second round of BTOP grant awards, which will continue on a rolling basis. NTIA will make all BTOP awards by September 30, 2010, and has thus far announced 218 BTOP grants that benefit communities across the nation.