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Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability announces funding award for AfroVillage Old Town Community Wireless Network project

Press Release
AfroVillage PDX’s successful award application will invest in Old Town community and economic development through seed funding for a neighborhood owned publicly accessible wireless network.

Portland, Ore.— The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) today announced AfroVillage PDX as the successful applicant for the $400,000 Wireless Network Building Grant. AfroVillage PDX is partnering with several partners including Street Roots, Free Geek, and Personal Telco, and many businesses in Old Town, to develop a digital equity access project. This project will directly improve access and ease economic burden through providing a secure, publicly accessible wireless network that centers economic growth and workforce development. The wireless network will expand job training opportunities, and improve delivery of essential services by reducing barriers to connectivity in Portland’s historic Old Town neighborhood. This project invests in the latest wireless technology to bring secure connectivity to priority populations, social service providers, overnight shelters, permanent housing providers and residents, and a wide network of local businesses.

A community-led committee selected the AfroVillage PDX Old Town Wireless Network project from a pool of six applicant organizations requesting a total of $1 million. Applicants were required to meet a set of minimum requirements including being a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, serving priority populations that live, work, worship, or access social services in Portland, and commit to meeting project reporting requirements and project completion by June 30, 2024.

When asked how the City of Portland could support dismantling the digital divide for Portlanders most in need, community members overwhelmingly indicated access to a fast and affordable internet connection as essential to daily life. This grant program is designed to help Portlanders overcome barriers to getting online. Using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the Wireless Network Building Grant seeks to enable communities and neighborhoods to build secure, fast, community-owned Wi-Fi 6, and fixed-wireless networks and is meant to meet an immediate need for capital investment in accessible high-speed internet access to stimulate community development.

The Wireless Network Building Grant serves as a pilot project to support digital-equity initiatives in the city while also gathering information about the need and capacity of community organizations to bridge the digital divide. The responses to this grant opportunity indicate substantive interest in future funding opportunities. Information on opportunities for grants, support, and community engagement can be found on the Digital Divide Response Project or the Digital Equity Strategic Initiatives Program websites.


Julian Hanlon-Austin

Senior Communications Strategist, Planning & Sustainability