NTIA Gives Broadband Grant to Group for Deaf

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The U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded a US$15 million broadband grant to Communication Service for the Deaf, a nonprofit focused on providing deaf and hard-of-hearing U.S. residents with communications services.

The grant, part of $7.2 billion in broadband grants and loans provided for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will help the South Dakota-based CSD focus on increasing broadband adoption among the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, NTIA said in a press release Monday. CSD's Project Endeavor will use discounted broadband services, specialized computers, technology training from an online support center, public access to videophones and other methods to bring broadband to their target audience, NTIA said.

"Project Endeavor is a great example of how the Recovery Act broadband investments will improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for many Americans," NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling said in a statement. "It is also a reminder of the need to bridge the digital divide for people with disabilities, especially when broadband service and technologies can be that vital link to employment, education, and health care."

CSD plans to add staff, proficient in sign language, to its contact center in South Dakota and expects to train up to 200,000 people who are deaf and hard of hearing in the use of video, real-time text-based communications, and other specialized broadband technologies, NTIA said. Another goal of the project is to improve access to enhanced 911 emergency dialing services by people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The project is expected to create 60 jobs in South Dakota, according to CSD's grant application. The project plans to sign up 16,000 new broadband users by offering mini-notebooks and discounted broadband, the application said.

"Broadband has to be accessible and it has to be affordable to consumers," CSD said in its application. "[In] Project Endeavor, CSD will educate deaf and hard-of-hearing people about broadband to develop digital literacy skills that will allow them to be productive citizens, empowered and enabled to access health-care, jobs, and our democracy."

The deaf and hard-of-hearing community is increasingly relying on broadband for its communications needs, CSD said in its application. "Broadband used to be a luxury and it is now a necessity and will be more so in the future," the group said.

CSD is the largest provider of contact center services for the deaf and hard of hearing in the U.S. The 35-year-old organization has operations in 12 states, including California, Maryland, Ohio, New York and Texas.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantusG. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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