Cricket Communications has filed for a government grant to expand low-cost wireless broadband service to impoverished residents as part of a non-profit effort to bridge the “digital divide.”
The Leap Wireless International subsidiary filed the application for federal Recovery Act funding in conjunction with One Economy, a global non-profit that works to expand technology offerings to low-income people.
Cricket did not disclose the amount it sought from the Recovery Act. The proposal was filed as part of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant.
If the grant goes through, the funds will be used to expand affordable wireless broadband service to 23,000 low-income families in five cities: Baltimore, Houston, Memphis, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
The program, called Project Change Access, is designed to provide meaningful broadband alternatives to low-income households. The program was launched in Portland, Ore., last fall as a pilot program by One Economy and LCW Wireless, a company in which Cricket owns a non-controlling interest. LCW Wireless offers Cricket unlimited service in Oregon markets.
Even when high-speed network coverage is available, it is not always affordable to the poor. The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently reported that just 35 percent of households with annual income of $20,000 or less had adopted broadband, compared to 63 percent nationwide.
“As we have seen in the results of the Portland pilot of Project Change Access, universal broadband is the key to economic revitalization in low-income communities that need growth in businesses and jobs the most,” said Dave Maquera, vice president, strategy at Leap, in a statement. “Cricket remains committed to bringing the benefits of wireless and mobile broadband to everyone, including low-income families who deserve the benefits of digital innovation that online access brings.”
One Economy CEO Rey Ramsey echoed Maquera’s sentiment, saying the partnership would “open new opportunities through the powerful tool of broadband and provide people with the resources to access the information they need to make productive decisions about their own lives.”