Minneapolis accepts second round of applications for free wireless accounts for nonprofits

In its continuing efforts to make Minneapolis a wireless city that bridges the digital divide, City officials announced on Wednesday, Oct. 7, that the City is seeking additional applications for "Wireless Community" accounts. These free wireless Internet accounts are for nonprofit organizations that provide free computer access to the public. The free "Wireless Community" accounts are one of the many community benefits that resulted from the City of Minneapolis’ contract with USI Wireless, the company that is constructing a wireless network to blanket the entire city.

The City of Minneapolis will distribute requests for applications for the free wireless accounts to local nonprofit agencies. Applications will also be available online.

Accounts will be given to agencies that provide public computer access, technology literacy training, and/or technology support for underserved communities. Applications are due by Friday, Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. Applications will be reviewed by the City of Minneapolis staff and the Digital Inclusion Advisory Board, which will make recommendations to the City Council on which organizations will receive free accounts in 2009. The accounts will be good through 2010.

Agencies selected to receive the free accounts will also receive free monthly subscription vouchers that they can use to recruit volunteers who can assist with staffing and training in their community technology centers. In total, $15,000 in free service vouchers will be distributed, in addition to the 100 free accounts.

These "Wireless Community" accounts are the latest examples of how Minneapolis City residents are benefiting from the robust community benefits agreement negotiated between the City of Minneapolis and USI Wireless, the company that built, owns and manages the wireless network throughout Minneapolis.

$400,000 IN GRANTS TO BRIDGE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Since the contract was signed between the City of Minneapolis and USI Wireless, more than $400,000 in grants have been distributed to 18 organizations throughout Minneapolis including the Minneapolis Public Library, Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, The Bridge for Runaway Youth, Casa De Esperanza and the PACER CENTER. The grants have been used to help these groups increase technology access and digital literacy learning to the various communities they serve. It is estimated that about $11 million will be generated to fund digital inclusion efforts in the community over the 10-year contract.

FREE, ONLINE "CIVIC GARDEN" FOR WIRELESS USERS

The City of Minneapolis and USI Wireless have also created an online " Civic Garden" that provides a free level of service for anyone who can receive the USI Wireless signal. The Civic Garden offers free Web access to a wealth of public sector information about government, education, and community services.

The City of Minneapolis’ public-private partnership with USI Wireless is being held up as a model for how cities and businesses can work together to make the notion of a "wireless city" a reality, and at the same time to improve government services and bridge the digital divide.

Oct. 7, 2009

Published Oct. 7, 2009