The Federal Communications Commission’s new National Broadband Plan calls for connecting more Americans to broadband Internet access as a way of improving U.S. society and transforming industry.
Case Western Reserve University is already doing its part to help a major segment of the Cleveland population through its new Case Connection Zone pilot research project, designed to provide faster broadband access to local residents and Case Western Reserve students who call the neighborhoods surrounding campus home.
The project, announced late last fall, is moving full speed ahead with dozens of neighborhood residents now signed up for the pilot phase.
Research from the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences suggests that a large number of households in communities surrounding the university either do not have Internet access or do not have broadband access. The Case Connection Zone pilot project aims to close the gap.
The project is more than just an opportunity for residents to log onto the Internet for leisure. According to Case Western Reserve officials leading the initiative, the program has software in place to meet specific metrics and goals such as contributing to neighborhood and public safety; increasing completion rates of high school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects; monitoring and identifying chronic health conditions for increases in wellness education; and increasing knowledge of and participation in household and neighborhood energy education and management.
The university's project is referenced in the National Broadband Plan: "Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, with 40 institutional partners, vendors and community organizations, is planning a University Circle Innovation Zone in the economically impoverished area around the university to provide households, schools, libraries and museums with gigabit fiber optic connections." The citation also notes that organizers expect "this network to create jobs in the community and spawn software and service development for Smart Grid, health, science and other applications, as well as foster technology, engineering and mathematics education services."
The university is working to connect the first 100 households in the area immediately adjacent to the university. This major investment will hopefully "change the way people feel about and view technology. It's bringing technology into everyday life," said Latisha James, director of Case Western Reserve’s Center for Community Partnerships. Program participants will receive the same quality Internet connectivity enjoyed by students, faculty and staff.
She added that the homeowners and residents in the pilot program are "incredibly excited." The beneficiaries range from older people to tech savvy graduate students.
An Alpha House on Juniper Road has been set up as a demonstration site to educate residents on how to use the new technology. Tours of the house will be available on Thursday, March 25, beginning at noon. More information is available online.
The pilot program is initially scheduled to last 12 months. The computer equipment is free for participants. When the research study is completed, residents will be able to keep the equipment and continue the service with fees subsidized by community partners.
The project has the potential to connect more than 25,000 local residents.
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