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State To Receive $93 Million To Boost Broadband In Schools, Public Safety Agencies
[September 13, 2010]

State To Receive $93 Million To Boost Broadband In Schools, Public Safety Agencies

Sep 14, 2010 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Connecticut will get more than $90 million in federal stimulus money to improve high-speed Internet access for scores of schools and libraries in the state and for advanced communications systems for public safety personnel, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday.

Using a $94 million grant from last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the state plans to lay thousands of miles of fiber optic cable and install other hardware that will upgrade communications technology and create an estimated 1,200 jobs, mainly in construction and telecommunications industries.

Connecticut's grant was one of 35 announced Monday, and the second biggest, after Colorado's. The $787 billion federal economic stimulus act set aside $7 billion for broadband infrastructure development, considered essential for long-term economic growth.

"Dial-up is a job-killer," U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District, said Monday at a press event in Hartford with other members of the state's Congressional delegation and a commerce department official.

Dial-up refers to an early method of connecting to the Internet through traditional telephone wires, one that is relatively slow and also ties up telephone lines. Broadband allows for high-volume, high-speed data transmission through fiber optic cable, making it easier to view websites and video and generally interact through the Internet, without disrupting telephone service.

In Connecticut, 83 K-12 schools, 29 libraries, four government facilities and two community colleges will benefit from the new grant, according to Lawrence E. Strickling, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for communications and information, who came to Hartford for the announcement. In some cases, connection speeds could increase from as little as 1.5 megabits per second to 1,000.

The colleges are Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson and Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted.

All projects supported by the grants announced Monday must be "substantially complete" within two years and finished within three, Strickling said. The money has not yet been transferred to the state, which must also contribute $23 million to its broadband expansion effort. Connecticut has 30 days to accept the grant, said a spokeswoman for the Department of Information Technology, which applied for it.

While Connecticut received the second biggest grant in dollars, Strickling said its project would also be among the most cost-efficient, at about $12,000 per mile of fiber optic cable.

A summary of the state's application described a $117 million broadband expansion project intended to provide faster Internet access to more Connecticut residents through "community anchor institutions," such as schools and libraries. Connecticut Public Television and some charter schools will also benefit.

The application noted that many people in the state, especially lower-income residents, rely on public computing facilities to look for work and carry out other important tasks.

Similarly, Connecticut schools must provide students reliable, speedy Internet access in order to educate them properly in a global economy that relies on digital communications.

The Department of Public Safety will be the primary beneficiary of the state's overall broadband project: $80 million of the $117 million is set aside for a new, integrated public safety data network and other communications technology upgrades for emergency personnel.

The public safety projects will "enhance communications among all that would respond and participate in any type of emergency or natural disaster" state police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said. "We'll be second to none when everything is up and running." To see more of The Hartford Courant, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

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