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Alaska Public Libraries, Rural Alaska Get Big Technology Boost

Begich Supports Continued Alaska Broadband Expansion

Recognizing the need to spur rural economic development, promote Alaska small businesses and foster a 21st century work force in Alaska, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich welcomed grants and matching contributions to enhance broadband access at 104 Alaska libraries and provide an estimated 88,000 Alaskans with digital literacy training. The two federal grants and matching contributions from local entities total $15.2 million.

"The phrase 'broadband connectivity' never tells the whole story," Begich said. "Improving access to the internet in Alaska creates jobs, educates children and adults and provides health care. These funds will provide 104 Alaska libraries with new tools bringing public internet access in Alaska to new levels through an overwhelming effort that will greatly benefit our state."

The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development will enhance public computer centers at 104 Alaska libraries and launch an innovative free public videoconferencing network available to all Alaska public library users. A $5.4 million grant, with an additional $2.9 million in matching contributions, is provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Additionally, an estimated 88,000 Alaskans could benefit from a new project providing digital literacy training to communities in rural Alaska. Creating nearly 90 jobs, this project will target dozens of rural communities by bringing together 21 partner organizations. A $4.5 million grant, with an additional $2.4 million in matching contributions, is provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the ARRA.

"Funding to expand broadband is so important to everyday life in Alaska, it helps a student in Fairbanks learn about their government in Juneau and it can save a patient in Kotzebue a flight to Seattle," Begich said. "Providing an estimated 88,000 Alaskans with both the equipment and tools to harness the capabilities of the internet will go a long way for Alaska's future."

Overall the Recovery Act will invest $7.2 billion in broadband projects nationwide. Over $100 million has already been committed to broadband projects in Alaska. In July, Sen. Begich hosted a roundtable on broadband development in Anchorage and brought FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to Cordova, Kotzebue and Kiana to discuss broadband needs and opportunities around the state.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expected to bring an estimated $1.9 billion and save or create 8,000 jobs in Alaska over two years. Additional information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is available here: http://www.recovery.gov/

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