Delta Regional Authority, Broadband Group To Partner In Public Schools

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 99 views 

Connect2Compete and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) will provide 45 schools in three Delta-region states with access to reduced-cost Internet service, affordable computers, and free digital literacy training during a pilot program this fall.

The public-private initiative is being supported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and was launched last year to narrow the digital divide.

“Once considered a luxury, owning a computer and an Internet connection have become absolutely essential to getting a job, succeeding in school, and participating in today’s society,” said Zach Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete, a national organization. “Low-income and minority Americans — whether in urban or rural settings — disproportionately find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide – excluded from the $8 trillion digital economy and all of its benefits. C2C works to close that divide.”

“We know now more than ever that a more connected Delta region is a more productive Delta region,” said Chris Masingill, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. “Broadband availability in our communities connects our people to increased educational and professional opportunities and creates jobs in the region. Today’s announcement is a commitment to bridging the digital divide, and I look forward to the work that Connect2Compete will do in our part of the world.”

The percentage of Delta-region school districts operating a web site lags behind the national average, 54% compared to 62%. There is also a disparity between the pricing available to rural as compared to urban areas, according to the two groups.

C2C’s program will begin the process of change by offering affordable computers and Internet to eligible families in the 45 participating schools of the Delta region and other areas like it.

As part of the pilot phase, C2C will bring its full complement of offerings, including reduced-cost broadband Internet, affordable computers, and both online and in-person free digital literacy training.

“Broadband can be the great equalizer – giving every American with an Internet connection access to a world of new opportunities that might previously have been beyond their reach,” said Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman. “The Connect2Compete initiative is helping ensure that more Americans enjoy the education, health, and economic benefits of broadband.”

To be eligible, families must have a student enrolled in the National Free School Lunch Program and, for the broadband offer, must not be currently subscribed to a broadband service. C2C will roll out nationally in early 2013.

C2C’s fall pilot campaign will involve schools in the following areas:

  • Arkansas – Jonesboro (3)
  • Mississippi – Greenville (5), Greenwood (5)
  • Louisiana – Abbeville (1), Baton Rouge (10), Breaux Bridge (2), St. Martinville (2), Kenner (1), Metairie (1), Waggaman (1), Westwego (1), New Orleans (4), St. Rose (1), Violet (1), Alexandria (7)

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