The U.S. Department of Commerce announced recently a $5.4 million award to the Alaska State Library, a Division of the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, to create a broadband network which will link Alaskans and their communities to each other and the rest of the world through a statewide network of public computer centers located in 104 public libraries.
Library users in many remote areas will be able to learn about and then experience broadband and video conferencing first hand. The network will be a pathway for state library partners to offer job and public safety training, social services, distance education, and heritage preservation, and for local communities to share local knowledge and expertise throughout the state.
The total cost of the project is $8.2 million, which will be spent over a three-year period to secure a broadband service provider, to obtain video conferencing and computing equipment, and to connect libraries to the network. The $2.9 million in matching funds includes support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation.
One hundred and four public libraries in Alaska will serve as public computer centers. These libraries serve approximately 99 percent of the population.
The project technology plan encompasses bandwidth upgrades to at least 1.5 Mbps down and 1.0 Mbps up in public libraries with substandard levels of connectivity in order to provide adequate bandwidth for most Web activities and basic video conferencing. All participating libraries, even those with higher Internet speeds, will be eligible to receive new computer equipment, desktop video conferencing software, and, where appropriate, video conferencing equipment. A consortium will jointly contract for dedicated bandwidth resources delivered over a Wide Area Network.