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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Technology grants slated for Spokane

$2.2 million will help more access faster Internet

Tess Ubiadas, 60, visits the Northeast Community Center’s Information Access Center to check her e-mail on Thursday.  (Dan Pelle)

Two federal grants totaling $2.2 million will help a network of Spokane civic and nonprofit groups upgrade technology in public centers so that small businesses and individuals can get more value from online technology.

The grants – one for $981,000, the other for $1.3 million – are among 18 projects named by the Obama administration Thursday to receive a portion of federal stimulus funds set aside to bring high-speed Internet to more people.

The government plans to distribute about $2 billion over the next two and a half months and to spend a total $7.4 billion in stimulus funds on the high-speed Internet effort.

The 18 projects announced Thursday will receive $183 million in grants. The Spokane projects were the only ones in Washington to receive funds in this round; no projects in Idaho made the list.

Administering the two grants here is the Spokane nonprofit Tincan, or The Inland Northwest Community Access Network. The grants will help all of Spokane’s city libraries and its four city-supported community centers upgrade their broadband connections, said Karen Michaelson, Tincan’s executive director. Also benefiting are seven area nonprofits, including Crosswalk, Volunteers of America and the YMCA and YWCA.

The community centers and nonprofits will also get new computers and training assistance to help underserved groups better use technology for skill development, business expansion or civic efforts, Michaelson said.

The Northeast Community Center will get about 40 new computers. Center Director Jean Farmer said those will be divided among three projects – a new youth tech center where neighborhood students can do Web research or sharpen software skills; a vocational computer lab for people to improve job skills; and a public use area.

“This will open up the computers we have for longer use by people. When we have more people than computers, we have to limit people to 30 minutes at a computer at a time,” Farmer said.

The center estimates that 96 percent of the people using its computers do so for job searches, she said.

Across the city the broadband grants will add 161 new computers.

The city’s six library branches won’t get new PCs. However, said Michaelson, the grant will link the computers and the community centers to the much faster municipal area network, a fiber-optic loop that allows users to move large files much faster than they now can.

Material from the Washington Post was used in this report.