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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ESRGC and BEACON Awarded $540,000 for Broadband Project

SALISBURY, MD---The Obama administration is working to expand broadband Internet technology to underserved parts of the nation—with the help of two Salisbury University organizations.

The Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative (ESRGC) and Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) have received $540,000 for a two-year project to research and map broadband across Maryland.

The grant is part of some $2 million awarded to Maryland through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program.

“For our area, in particular, this is a critical piece of the puzzle to move the Eastern Shore forward in the 21st century,” said Dr. Michael Scott, ESRGC director.  “The shore needs high speed internet access that is affordable.”

“This project goes beyond answering the question, ‘Where is broadband now?’ and answers the critical question, ‘Where and what should broadband be in the future for a prosperous and competitive Maryland?’” said Dr. Memo Diriker, BEACON director.  “With this project, the Eastern Shore will have a very important seat at the planning table where the future of Maryland’s information technology infrastructure will be crafted.”

The ESRGC will create maps associating some 3.5 million addresses in the state with accessibility, quality and affordability of broadband service.  BEACON will host focus groups statewide to explore opinions about the future of broadband in Maryland.

“News about this grant is affirmation of the great work already underway at the ESRGC,” said Dr. Karen Olmstead, dean of the Henson School of Science and Technology.  “This important project is just another in ESRGC’s growing portfolio of critical mapping support and geospatial analysis for Maryland’s future.”

“The future of broadband is critical to business and economic development on the Eastern Shore,” said Dr. Richard Hoffman, interim dean of the Perdue School of Business.  “Through BEACON, the Perdue School is pleased to be part of efforts to facilitate the development of affordable and expanded internet services on the Shore. This grant is a wonderful opportunity to move this effort forward.”

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the other portion of the $2 million grant goes to the Maryland Broadband Cooperative Inc. and to Towson University, a partner on the project.  Its Center for GIS will collect data from broadband service providers, while its Regional Economic Studies Institute will provide independent data verification.

Data collected will be displayed in NTIA’s national broadband map, an informational tool to be used by policymakers and consumers.

“Forty years ago, interstate highways were crucial for economic growth in our rural areas, now it’s the information superhighway,” said U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski.  “Expanding broadband in Maryland means economic development, job growth and innovation.”

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.   



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