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Free Broadband Program to Reach Southern California in 2010

A program offering free broadband services to low income homes will expand to Southern California in 2010 thanks to the same group that has brought similar services to Washington, D.C.  and Portland.

Project Change Access, operated by One Economy, Qualcomm, Google and Cricket, will offer products and service to roughly 500 in the San Diego area, according to Ken Eisner, Managing Director at One Economy.

“All the partners are extremely excited to expand the program,” said Eisner. The same group recently launched Project Change Access in Washington, D.C. following a pilot in Portland in 2008. To find those with the greatest need for the services, the group will work with local organizations as it is currently doing in D.C..

“We work with community partners on the ground, which helps build capacity and knowledge, along with giving them the tools to help them distribute the materials in a way that leads to long term Internet adoption,” Eisner said. “These organizations are a phenomenal distribution source because they have the best awareness of the community around them.”

In addition to this project, several other organizations have also listed One Economy as a vendor to provide broadband outreach support as a part of their proposals to take advantage of government stimulus funds. If the proposals are funded, One Economy will provide digital literacy and awareness services to help execute the goals outlined in each. The organization is well positioned to serve as an educational conduit for educating the public about the benefits of Internet usage. In addition to its offline education services, One Economy operates websites that directly target audiences with useful tools to turn the Internet into an information portal.

“These sites have long been localized with life sustaining information for low-income users,” said Eisner. “You’re not going to get games here, but you will find information on health services, education and jobs.”

TheBeehive.org, for example, includes an online career coach and resume builder, available in Spanish and English. The site has also expanded into Africa and the Middle East, again providing local resources for residents in countries including Turkey, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. Eisner believes practical applications of broadband services like these will be key in achieving sustainable adoption among those who don’t regularly use the web.

“There is a terrific opportunity is for the government to expand on what is already working,” he said, “and to leverage our existing resources so that what works actually gets adopted.”

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