In the last month, in the second round of broadband American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration, California has been granted $218 million for broadband projects.  These projects will benefit the state by building improved broadband connections in many areas of the state, helping public safety first responders have state-of-the-art interoperable wireless communications, encouraging economic development, and helping bridge the Digital Divide.

The largest grant was a whopping $81.5 million that went to the Digital 395 project of the California Broadband Cooperative (CBC) group.  The CBC group is now able to build an ambitious middle mile broadband infrastructure project, stretching from Barstow, California to Carson City, Nevada along Highway 395.  This is a very rural area that contains many small communities with no — or very slow — broadband service.  The project will connect 230 community institutions like schools, libraries, public safety, and local governments.  As many as 62,400 people stand to benefit from the new broadband lines, as well as 2,500 businesses.

Another large $46.6 million grant went to Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN) to build a middle mile broadband service stretching through 18 Central Valley counties.  This is a big project to connect up to 63 community institutions to broadband, with 3.6 million people and 160,000 businesses standing to benefit from the faster broadband service.  We expect education, public safety, health care and small businesses in these counties to particularly benefit from this large scale project.

Public safety got a boost too, with a $50.6 million grant to Motorola, with $21.9 million in matching dollars.  For the BayWEB project, Motorola will build an interoperable wireless public safety broadband network for the public safety entities in fourteen counties in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  This will be a state-of-the-art Long Term Evolution (Lte) next generation wireless system that will provide IP-enabled interoperable communications abilities to 200 existing public safety sites, and up to 50,000 public safety users in the Bay Area.

Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative received a $13.7 million grant to build a middle mile project to connect 18 community institutions to broadband, including education and health care.   As many as 33,000 people and 2,100 businesses will benefit from the project.

California was also very pleased to win broadband grants for projects other than infrastructure.  These projects will advance broadband applications like telehealth, tele-education, digital literacy and broadband awareness:

  • The Foundation for California Community Colleges received a $10.9 million award to provide outreach, training and educational support to increase Digital Literacy skills and broadband adoption for students and their families, with an emphasis on our low income Hispanic students in the Central Valley region.
  • UC Davis received a $9.1 million grant for its California Telehealth Network (CTN) project.  CTN will use the grant to establish 15 model e-Health community projects to show how broadband can enhance health care delivery to patients including in home applications.  CTN will also partner with libraries, community colleges and others to engage in digital literacy training relating to health care information.
  • The Youth Policy Institute received a $5.6 million grant to bring 1,500 computer stations and job training to 80 computer centers serving low income Hispanic and other high risk families in the Los Angeles area.  This project will help bridge the Digital Divide that exists in the Los Angeles area.
  • Zerodivide received a $686,157 award to increase broadband usage among the fifteen Native American tribes in rural San Diego County as part of its Tribal Digital Village project.  This project will help 8,900 tribal residents and 2,000 residents living in adjacent communities obtain broadband service and receive broadband awareness and adoption training.

The NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service will continue to make grants until September 30, 2010, and so we are crossing fingers that more grants may come California’s way.