Residents of Wahkiakum County will soon be able to receive technical assistance for free thanks to a partnership between Computer Link Northwest (CLNW), the Department of Commerce, and the State Broadband Office. In August, CLNW responded to a request for proposal sent out by the Dept. of Commerce to establish a Digital Navigator Program to serve the residents of Wahkiakum County. “We found out in late September that our proposal was accepted. Numerous letters of recommendation provided by local officials including State Representative Joel McIntire, Mayor David Olson, County Commissioner Lee Tischer, School Superintendent Brent Freeman, and others strengthened our proposal,” said Steve Carson, owner of Computer Link Northwest.
The program will start in the coming weeks and will serve our community by allowing us to offer free support and training to individuals, assist low-income residents with internet fees and devices, improve and establish community tech centers and improve the technical equipment for key education, safety, and non-profit organizations.
Providing free support and training for residents will encourage safe and effective technical habits. Typical services will help users access online services, safely use their email and the internet, provide network and WiFi support and troubleshoot problems with devices like cell phones, tablets, printers, and more. For those looking for training, CLNW can provide self-guided programs as well as one-on-one tutoring.
Many residents will also qualify for assistance with paying for internet service and be able to get help signing up for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Qualified residents can receive free devices to access the internet based on household size and income at or below 200% of the Federal poverty level guidelines. Eligible residents often don’t know of the assistance available, so CLNW will be using advertising and social media to communicate with those that can receive assistance.
The Cathlamet Library, the new Appelo Annex at Vista Park, and the Johnson Park Community Center in Rosburg will also be receiving new computers, peripherals, and networking equipment. “The library has been using borrowed equipment and this grant will allow us to give them new computers. We’ll be working with Port District number 2 to establish the Annex as a key hub in Skamokawa,” said Carson. Digital Navigators, local technical specialists, will be available at those locations on a scheduled basis, or by appointment, to help users with the equipment, training, and technical support.
The final element included in the proposal was to upgrade the network security and computer equipment for our anchor institutions throughout the County. “I’ve visited several fire stations, historical organizations, non-profit organizations, and schools, and the devices are outdated and often not very secure in our County,” said Carson. “We look forward to meeting with representatives from these organizations and helping them purchase, install, configure and secure devices so they can continue serving our community.”
The grant includes nearly $180,000 for new hardware, $80,000 for labor, and $30,000 for advertising, rent, utilities, and overhead, totaling $290,000 to improve digital skills and hardware in the County. The grant runs through June of 2023 and there is an opportunity to extend it up to two years if the State Legislature continues to fund the project.