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The Open Technology Initiative Helps Bring $11.8 Million for Broadband Adoption in Philadelphia

Second “Freedom Rings” Broadband Stimulus Award will Support Internet Access, Computers and Training
Published:   September 13, 2010

Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded an $11.8 million grant to an 11 member coalition of community organizations lead by the Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, the second “Freedom Rings” proposal to be awarded in the City from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Compounding the $6.4 million awarded in June to the City of Philadelphia for 77 computer centers, this grant supports sustainable broadband adoption programs that will:

  • Generate 5,000 new broadband household subscribers;
  • Distribute over 5,500 computers to public housing residents and formerly homeless youth;
  • Support 50 businesses to adopt broadband;
  • Provide over 100,000 hours of hands-on training to 15,000 people; and,
  • Create over 75,000 new broadband users through a viral social marketing campaign.

"The New America Foundation has been engaged in the assessment and evaluation of Philadelphia broadband initiatives since 2007," stated Sascha Meinrath, Director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative. "OTI utilized the knowledge we've gleaned over the years to help develop the Philadelphia Freedom Rings Initiative – supporting an innovative collaboration to bring digital excellence to the city's residents."

Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, said, “we thank our friends at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative for helping us connect Philadelphia’s communities to broadband technologies. Most people know that broadband is essential for their daily lives. We know that long-term adoption strategies must be thoughtfully tailored to community needs and delivered through trusted, neighborhood-level organizations, like the Urban Affairs Coalition and Philadelphia’s Freedom Rings Partnership, in order to be effective and sustainable. New America is going to help us do just that.”

In Philadelphia, the Open Technology Initiative continued its on-the-ground support beyond the 2007 analysis of Philadelphia's Municipal wireless project The Philadelphia Story with strategy, grant writing, technical consulting, and guidance for the grants offered through the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Building on expertise in Philadelphia, OTI has committed to evaluate the impact of the project through both quantitative and qualitative metrics.

"We are excited because this project prioritizes placing resources and skills training in the hands of those most in need, and will put Philadelphia at the forefront of cities building towards a digital future for all residents," explained Todd Wolfson, a co-founder of Media Mobilizing Project, a partner in the proposal.

“Today's announcement is another example of Philadelphia's deep history to lead and spur innovation through community engagement,” added Dan Meredith, Technologist and OTI's lead in Philadelphia. “This project's priorities move past typical dump and run technology efforts with an attempt to stymie the digital divide by bringing broadband adoption programs directly to Philadelphia residents.”

The Open Technology Initiative has supported efforts to direct broadband stimulus funding to community-focused projects across the country, through both on-the-ground efforts and providing expansive application resources.

A fact sheet on the Freedom Rings: Sustainable Broadband Adoption is available here: http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/files/grantees/factsheetpaurbanaffairscoalition.pdf

Please contact Kate Brown with media requests at 202-596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

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