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On the heels of President-elect Barack Obama’s promise to make broadband access a priority, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a new initiative to improve internet connections for public libraries across seven states. The foundation gave Connected Nation, a non-profit broadband internet advocacy group, and the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) $6,959,771 to establish the project in Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Virginia. (The bulk of the money went to Connected Nation.) The project kicks off as visits to libraries are on the rise due to the economic crisis, while rich online content is becoming more standard. For instance, the foundation envisions access to online education courses with streaming video and audio, in addition to job and government sites.
The seven selected states were ones that had high concentrations of public libraries with internet speeds less than 1.5 Mbps and that had already taken steps to improve these speeds. These states also had substantial public support to increase broadband availability. Release.