Smart Community Sparks:
Project OVERCOME Partnerships for Broadband Success
US Ignite’s Project OVERCOME communities demonstrate the high value of partnerships. As these communities deploy innovative Internet connectivity solutions in unserved and underserved areas, partners help meet network access, device, and training needs. Below you can find examples of genuine partnerships from the field.
Across the seven Project OVERCOME communities, partner organizations, businesses, and academic institutions aid the project teams, helping them to move quickly and stay within budget. Due to the experimental nature of these pilot projects, partnerships are critical for augmenting available resources and providing both the tangible and intangible support needed for successful deployments.
The Blue River, OR team recruited a power utility company as a partner in its effort to continue rebuilding Internet infrastructure destroyed by a wildfire. While the project team is providing the bandwidth for a resilient multi-gigabit wireless link, it needed access to multiple towers to extend network reach. The local power company saw the value of providing tower access because the new network will also support wildfire cameras and air quality sensors in the region. These devices provide critical data back to the utility and create a compelling case for collaboration. Thanks to this partnership, the different needs from both partners are met while also making a positive impact on Blue River families.
In Cleveland, OH, Project OVERCOME awardee DigitalC connected Lexington Village, owned by the local private developer Millenia. When it came time to install the mmWave equipment on the rooftops of the property, an unforeseen power issue caused a significant delay. Fortunately, Millenia participated as a project partner from the start of the design phase and worked with DigitalC to figure out a path forward to deliver power to the planned sites. DigitalC offers a multi-tiered technology solution that allows them the nimbleness to pivot and provides the best connectivity option. Lexington Village will now receive reliable, affordable high-speed Internet through DigitalC’s internet service provider, empowerCLE+, by utilizing CBRS. The Cleveland team documents the lessons learned through this project in a playbook that will allow for replication by partners and communities around the nation.
For an Internet solution to create a positive impact, community members need a device to use the newly established connection. Unfortunately, finding the funding to purchase devices and deciding what devices to buy can be a herculean task… that is, if not for partners!
The winning Project OVERCOME proposal from the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, NY, established a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) connection in the Fruit Belt neighborhood. However, while planning for the CBRS build-out, the team discovered that many households in the area lacked a computing device and Internet connectivity. Faced with this information, they needed to find a way to provide computers, monitors, headsets, and keyboards to community members. Thankfully, the team could partner with the John R. Oishei Foundation. The Foundation supports the project through a grant dedicated to purchasing these critical devices and ensures that community members can access the Internet effectively.
Aside from funding, partners can help in choosing which devices to purchase. For example, the Project OVERCOME grantee in Puerto Rico, Libraries Without Borders US (LWB- US), brought in Link PR as a partner of the “De Puente a Puente” pilot in Loiza because of its ample experience bringing devices and connectivity to hurricane-affected areas. Link PR recommended the best computers and hotspots to purchase while considering the coverage parameters of the area. In addition to guiding the selection of devices for purchase, Link PR now manages the hotspot inventory at the newly connected community centers in Loiza and offers educational programming on digital literacy and Internet safety.
Devices in hand do not mean automatic adoption. Individuals gaining access to high-speed Internet for the first time or after a lapse in connectivity require targeted training. Partnerships are often the most efficient way to implement successful community education programs.
Digital training requires a knowledgeable and trusted partner to provide the educational material. The Project OVERCOME grantee in Detroit, MI, Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP), leaned on the Digital Stewards for this purpose. Digital Stewards are community members hired and trained by the Equitable Internet Initiative to engage residents and offer tech support and training. The Stewards offer residents digital literacy training developed with direct input and insights gained through community-led conversations. As community residents, the Stewards also ensure that the technology solution and education efforts integrate in a way that amplifies trust.
The Westchester County Association in Yonkers, NY, is offering residents a free Internet connection made possible through CBRS. All participants receive a router to establish the connection. In addition, however, residents can opt to sign up for the ‘Access Plus’ tier, where they can obtain a Chromebook and 15 hours of digital skills training designed and delivered by The STEM Alliance, a trusted project partner. Users received technology training in cohort groupings based on shared demographics, such as age or native language. Since The STEM Alliance holds over a decade of experience with the Yonkers community, they play an essential role in executing the Project OVERCOME pilot.
Partnerships enable implementation
Too often, we romanticize the story of an individual, be it a person, company, or group, working tirelessly to succeed with little help from others. When it comes to implementing innovative technology solutions, this framework fails. Partnerships between governments, academia, nonprofits, and businesses enable the successful implementation of new projects that aim to make a difference in the lives of community members.
To learn more about Project OVERCOME, visit: us-ignite.org/program/OVERCOME