AOL chipping at digital divide

In an effort to bring the Internet to all Americans, America Online. has

launched several programs to increase accessibility in rural and low-income

areas.

During a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee meeting

Thursday, AOL Chairman Steve Case, announced that his company is working

with government agencies to close the digital divide — the widening gap

between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not.

Rural areas tend to be hard hit by the digital divide because of the

lack of Internet service providers, computers and basic phone line accessibility,

so AOL is working with the National Center for Small Communities to close

the gap. Through the AOL Rural Telecommunications Awards, communities using

information technology to revitalize towns with less than 10,000 people

may be eligible for a $10,000 grant.

Last year, four communities received awards. This year five communities

each will receive $10,000 grants, and 10 towns will receive $2,000 grants.

Winners will be announced in October. Last year's winners included:

* Sylvester, Ga., population less than 8,000, for its Free Net system that

used by government, educational institutions, community businesses and private

citizens. Volunteers maintain the free countywide network.

* Maddock, N.D., population less than 1,000, for its development of the

Rural Business and Technology Center to provide a shared telecommunications

infrastructure.

* Questa, N.M., population less than 3,000, for its Wireless Demonstration

Project that provided wireless telecom services to rural mountain areas.

* McDermitt, Nev., population less than 1,000, for its Humboldt Internet

Provider project that gives Internet service to the community. The project

was launched and maintained by McDermitt High School students.

Also, AOL is launching PowerUp, a public/private partnership to build community

technology centers where young people can learn IT skills to compete in

the business market.

AOL also is working with the National School Board Association to provide

Internet access to every school and to award grants to K-12 teachers who

use the Internet innovatively.

More information on AOL digital divide projects is available at www.aolfoundation.org.

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