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Project OVERCOME, a new initiative from US Ignite will use a $1.945 million National Science Foundation grant to fund and build out five proof-of-concept projects aimed at accelerating the delivery of broadband services to unserved and underserved communities.

Non-profit US Ignite is looking for projects that will offer “novel ways” to connect rural and urban communities and will choose project teams that plan to use innovative technologies such as mesh networks and new spectrum access solutions. Projects that tap public and private sector partners are also of interest.

US Ignite said it will collect data to measure the technical and social impacts of different connectivity strategies with the goal of discovering “patterns of success that can be repeated on a larger scale across the country, and to catalog the distinctions that emerge based on variations in the communities served.”

Interested parties will be able to file Project OVERCOME proposals based on a solicitation for proposals to be made available within a month. US Ignite urged applicants to have project teams comprised of academic, nonprofit, industry, government, student, and volunteer partners.

The proposals selected are expected to include local and industry collaborations as well as different population density characteristics, demographics, geographic regions, housing types and technical approaches. Selections are expected to be made by early spring 2021. The projects are expected to be completed within a year, at which point a significant quantity of data about the projects is expected to be available.

“While ensuring greater connectivity has always been important, the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have turned a desire to deliver broadband to everyone into a critical priority for the nation,” said Lee Davenport, US Ignite director of community development, in a prepared statement about Project OVERCOME. “Because large-scale efforts to expand broadband access can take years to complete, we’ve designed this project to take advantage of innovative approaches that connect people quickly, and that have the potential to be scaled out to other communities nationwide.”

US Ignite may be best known for its smart cities work, but the organization also has been involved in administering funding for a variety of broadband and related projects.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.

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