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Idaho libraries get Gates Foundation help for broadband grants

Idaho’s Commission for Libraries has been selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as one of 13 state library agencies that the foundation will help apply for federal broadband stimulus grants, with the aim of bringing high-speed Internet access for the public to all of Idaho’s 140 public libraries. The foundation will give the state library commission help and technical assistance in applying for the grant, and if they’re successful, it’ll provide the required matching funds.

Though most of Idaho’s libraries offer Internet access, about 40 percent are below minimum standards for bandwidth, said Idaho libraries spokeswoman Teresa Lipus. State Librarian Ann Joslin said, “This is an unprecedented opportunity for the public libraries in Idaho lacking broadband access that is affordable, sustainable and scalable to meet future needs.” As part of the effort, the foundation will train Idaho librarians on how to apply for federal “E-Rate” funding for ongoing broadband connection costs.

“A successful grant proposal by the Commission means more citizens will be able to get online at their public library to look for a job, find workforce resources, and access government information,” Gov. Butch Otter said. “This is a meaningful and cost-effective way to provide needed services to the people of Idaho.”