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Drexel to Assist in Providing Low-Income Residents with Broadband Access

September 16, 2010

Philadelphia Freedom Rings: SBA Partnership, a consortium of public and private entities led by The Urban Affairs Coalition, a leading nonprofit that works to build wealth in urban communities, has been selected to receive an $11.8 million grant to provide Internet access, computers, and training to low-income residents and small businesses in Philadelphia. The grant, announced today, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) through their Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), part of their investments made through the America Recovery Reinvestment Act. "Low-income people and small businesses owners are looking for ways to get back into the game economically," said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition. "This award will enable us to provide Internet access and computer training to thousands of Philadelphians so they can develop new skills, put money back into their pockets, and help the economic recovery of our city." The Urban Affairs Coalition will lead the project in collaboration with the Philadelphia Freedom Rings: SBA Partnership, a group that includes: Drexel University; Media Mobilizing Project; National Comprehensive Center for Fathers (NCCF); New America Foundation; One Day At A Time (ODAAT); People's Emergency Center, Philadelphia FIGHT; Tenet Social Services, Inc; Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc.; and Youth Outreach and Community Awareness Project (YOACAP). This SBA Partnership is a part of the larger Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership, a citywide initiative that aims to serve people most likely to be left behind in the digital age (minorities, immigrants, low-income individuals, the unemployed and homeless, and youth) by providing broadband access and training. The lead organizations of the broader Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership are the City of Philadelphia with its NTIA-funded Public Computing Center project and Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc.'s proposed Comprehensive Community Infrastructure project. The initiative will: •Generate 5,000 new broadband household subscribers •Distribute over 5,000 computers to public housing residents and formerly homeless youth •Support 50 businesses to adopt broadband use •Serve nearly 15,000 people providing them with over 210,000 hours of hands-on training, making them regular broadband users •Reach a minimum of 75,000 through a viral social marketing campaign informing residents about the important role that broadband can play in improving their daily lives Drexel’s role: Drexel will provide broadband education, awareness, training and access to low-income residents and community organizations to support the Freedom Rings Sustainable Broadband Adoption program. This goal will be met through the following objectives:

• Creating an educational portal focused on a user-centered design approach, which will facilitate digital literacy through education and workforce training and be available to housing authority residents and community partners throughout Philadelphia.

• Facilitating 40,000 hours of workforce development training to 5,000 residents from the City’s housing authorities and community members as part of an innovative laptop program designed to get technology into the hands of the residents to facilitate workforce development training.

• Raising community awareness about broadband technology and access in Philadelphia through a grassroots movement through community events and an integrated social media and social marketing approach.

Drexel’s primary role in the Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) grant will be to develop an educational hybrid platform that merges online instruction through a portal coupled with face-to-face instruction to propel broadband adoption throughout the City. Through a phased approach, Drexel will drive the educational content developed and delivered to the residents and community members.

Content will come from a variety of sources—repurposing and retargeting existing course materials from Drexel University and community college classes, existing resources through the Internet Public Library, and new content developed collaboratively by Drexel faculty and staff, community organization leaders and community residents.

Currently 40 percent of Americans do not use high-speed Internet at home according to a 2010 NTIA study. Those without high-speed Internet at home are disproportionately people of color: 54 percent of African Americans and 60 percent of Latinos do not have at-home broadband. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project states that 50 percent of those without at-home broadband believe the Internet is not relevant to their lives. Urban Affairs Coalition The Urban Affairs Coalition is one of the Philadelphia region's leading nonprofits, operating and managing a wide range of programs, services, and public policy initiatives that serve nearly 85,000 people each year. The Coalition drives change from the ground up by building wealth in urban areas, strengthening nonprofits and encouraging youth development. As one of the region's premier fiscal sponsors, the Coalition provides administrative and supportive services for more than 80 program partners. Now celebrating 40 years, the Coalition works on issues of access, equity and inclusion in the workforce; addressing workforce development, including connecting youth and young adults to jobs; and minority business development. Formerly the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC), we officially changed our name to the Urban Affairs Coalition on September 1, 2010. Visit us at


News media contacts: Mary-Anne Smith, Urban Affairs Coalition, 215-851-1794, 267-229-2348 cell, or Niki Gianakaris, Drexel University, 215-895-6741, 215-778-7752 (cell), Elizabeth Brachelli, Drexel College of Engineering, 215-895-6454 or

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