U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today, joined by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the South Los Angeles WorkSource Center,announced a $7.5 million Recovery Act grant that will upgrade and expand 188 computer centers that provide the public with free broadband access to the Internet. The investment will help bridge the technological divide and improve access to job and computer training, and educational opportunities.
The grant was awarded to the Los Angeles' Computer Access Network (L.A.-CAN). The L.A.-CAN project proposes to double the number of workstations available throughout the city at public computer centers in libraries, workforce centers and youth and family centers in low-income and non-English speaking communities. The majority of the 188 proposed centers would be located in or within three miles of federal- and state-designated "Enterprise Zones."
"This critical investment will expand computer and Internet service access to Los Angeles residents most in need, helping to make them full participants in today's 21st century information economy," Locke said. "Having access to the Internet's economic, health and educational benefits should be as much of a fundamental American right as attending a quality school or feeling safe when you walk down the street."
The project proposes to:
- Expand and upgrade free public computer centers at 73 public library locations, 43 WorkSource and OneSource job centers, and 72 recreation centers, senior centers and child care centers—connecting 35 youth and senior centers to broadband Internet service for the first time.
- Expand broadband Internet access to vulnerable populations: 128 of the proposed centers are located in or near areas where 50 percent of the households are non-English speaking.
- Expand broadband Internet access to low-income communities: 158 of the proposed centers are located in areas where 50 percent of the households are at low- or moderate-income levels.
- Provide city residents with access to job and computer training and online search engines, including the library's recently-developed Job Hunting Guide.
"I am so pleased to stand with Secretary Locke today as he announces this crucial funding for the L.A.-CAN Project which will help community centers, libraries, workforce and youth centers across Los Angeles upgrade and expand their computer centers and high speed Internet access, and support computer literacy and educational training programs," Senator Boxer said.
"This grant represents the beginning of our commitment to use Recovery Act funds to broaden access to technology and close the digital divide," Congresswoman Waters said. "Many residents have not been able to afford broadband and thus do not have access to it, but the South Los Angeles WorkSource Center—Community Centers Inc. and other public computing centers receiving funding will now make broadband available for free to our community."
"With access to computers and broadband Internet that many of us take for granted, more Angelenos will have the opportunity to use the tools of the 21st century to get the jobs of the 21st century," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "With this ARRA funding, we will take another step towards bridging the digital divide and getting the hard-working people of Los Angeles back to work."
Last month, Vice President Biden announced award of the first grants and loans funded by the Recovery Act to expand access to and adoption of broadband service in America—an initial investment of $183 million in 18 high-speed Internet projects benefiting 17 states. Today's grant is part of the same Recovery Act effort, which will eventually invest a total of $7.2 billion. Of that funding, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration will utilize $4.7 billion for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the United States, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will use $2.5 billion in budget authority to support grants and loans to facilitate broadband deployment in primarily rural communities.