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Higgins: $300,000 grant to UB & Mission:Ignite for expansion of broadband in Buffalo

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Thu, Apr 1st 2021 10:10 pm

Local project is one of just seven federal awards nationwide 

Congressman Brian Higgins announced the University at Buffalo and Mission:Ignite have been awarded $300,000 through “Project OVERCOME,” a contest to find innovative solutions to connect communities to broadband.

Higgins said, “The pandemic forced a largescale public shift to virtual education, work-from-home and telemedicine, simultaneously exposing the gaping digital divide. Mission:Ignite has helped to lead the effort to connect people to devices, but internet access continues to be a hurdle. We commend the project leader, the University at Buffalo, and all of the project partners for this collaborative effort to improve access to broadband for residents in Buffalo.”

Project OVERCOME is a $2.7 million initiative run by U.S. Ignite, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-led effort to build smarter cities through collaboration. The project is supported with $2.25 million in federal funding through the NSF and a $450,000 investment from Schmidt Futures, a charitable organization. Buffalo was one of just seven communities awarded funding nationwide.

The Buffalo team will deliver broadband Internet service to the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo using a citizens broadband radio service (CBRS)-based wireless network.

Mission:Ignite, a community-based organization, will be the operational owner of the network and will train local digital stewards to provide ongoing maintenance and community support using a model pioneered by Community Tech New York.

The John R. Oishei Foundation and Kaleida Health are also partners on the project.

“We are excited to take part in this important effort to reduce the digital divide in underserved communities,” said Dr. Filippo Malandra, assistant professor of research in the UB electrical engineering department. “We are grateful to US Ignite, the National Science Foundation and Schmidt Futures for supporting our proposal and for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable collective effort, jointly with the six other recipients.”

UB department of electrical engineering associate professor Dr. Nick Mastronarde added, “This project would not be happening without the tireless efforts of our team members and partners from the University at Buffalo, Community Tech New York, Mission:Ignite and the Oishei Foundation, as well as support from the City of Buffalo, Kaleida Health, Integrated Systems and the New York State Wireless Association.”

According to U.S. Ignite, at least 17 million people in the U.S. lack basic internet access. The goal of Project OVERCOME is to launch a select few proof-of-concept strategies to expand broadband in underserved regions. NSF will review the deployment of the projects and determine if similar strategies can be used in other regions across the country.

“We at Mission:Ignite are grateful to U.S. Ignite and Schmidt Futures and their efforts to help narrow the digital divide that exists for so many Americans,” Executive Director Christine Carr-Barmasse said. “In our 24 years of serving NY state and WNY community providing over 32,000 computers and related training for schools, students and families, this first-of-a-kind community project will provide a free internet resource that will help complete the digital equity solution. We look forward to collaborating with our partners and the local Fruit Belt community in hopes of bringing technology supports as a healthy resource for education and family needs. We are honored to be a part of this creative team of community partners who are looking to make an impact for digital equity.”

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