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California broadband projects pick up $205 million in federal funding

Broadband Rural California will become a little more wired. 

California will receive over $205 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for seven projects aimed toward bringing fast broadband Internet access to rural and remote communities in the state.

The grants are part of the $1.8 billion in Recovery Act funds announced today by Vice President Joe Biden. The grants were awarded to 94 broadband projects in 37 states.

“Each day the Internet becomes a more influential and critical resource for education, free speech and commerce around the world,” Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), who pushed for the funding, said in a statement. “This is one reason we specifically crafted language in the Recovery Act to fund broadband deployment to underserved areas.”

This is the second round of funding received by various California broadband projects. The first round -- given at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 --  awarded the state more than $30 million through a program run by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The California Broadband Cooperative received the biggest grant in the state -- more than $81 million -- for its Digital 395 Middle Mile project, which proposes to build a 553-mile fiber optic network between Barstow and Carson City, Nev., providing broadband access to about 15% of California.

The San Francisco Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband Project will get more than $50 million. The public-private project led by Motorola Inc. plans to provide a broadband network for emergency responders and wireless Internet for general public access in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Almost $11 million will go to the Foundation for California Community Colleges to provide training in digital skills and to encourage broadband adoption for low-income residents of the Central Valley. The Central Valley Independent Network will receive $46.6 million to build a 1,371-mile fiber optic network through 18 counties for broadband service to schools, libraries, businesses and residents.

More than $13 million is intended for the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications CCI project, which will provide broadband service to underserved areas of Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties.

And 19 Native American tribes in Southern California will receive digital training through the Tribal Digital Village Broadband Adoption Program run by ZeroDivide, which was awarded almost $700,000. ZeroDivide will also participate in a six-state project aiming to increase broadband access to low-income youths.

“This is reflective of investment that needs to be made to grow our economy," said Mara Lee, spokeswoman for Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento). "This is truly the biggest investment in broadband Internet that California has ever seen."

-- Shan Li

Photo: A fiber optic line for broadband Internet access being installed in Vermont, similar to the kind that will go up in California under the new funding. Credit: Toby Talbot/Associated Press

 
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