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Social media company providing $225,000 grant to Prineville Connected Community Project to add new Wi-fi capacity in town

JASON CHANEY - Facebook Community Development Regional Manager William Marks addresses the audience at the announcement ceremony, held at Crook County Fairgrounds last Monday.

Facebook is donating money to a project that will significantly boost internet connectivity for several targeted locations in Prineville.

The social media company is providing a $225,000 grant for the Prineville Connected Community Project, which will provide internet access points in the downtown area as well as Crook County High School, Crook County Fairgrounds and Crook County Library.

The grant funding was announced during an event held late last Monday morning at the fairgrounds that drew multiple community leaders.

"This is an exciting announcement," said Facebook Community Development Regional Manager William Marks. He went on to note that the Prineville Facebook Data Center went live 10 years ago, and even though 16 more data centers have been built worldwide, Prineville "will always be our flagship," so Facebook strives to support the community.

"What does the community need? What do business owners need? What do the teachers and the parents and the students need to thrive?"

The answer, Facebook recently determined, was better internet connectivity. So, working with a variety of local organizations from the Prineville Downtown Association to Crook County and the City of Prineville as well as the Crook County School District, the Prineville Connected Community Project was launched.

"We are going to increase, in general, the Wi-Fi capacity (in selected key areas) from 100 megabytes per second to 10 gigabytes per second," Marks said. "That is a significant increase."

Local leaders agreed and several of them spoke at Monday's event, expressing their gratitude and elaborating on what the investment in connectivity will mean for the community.

"Having a partnership with Facebook has been pivotal for the school district," said School District Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. "This is a great day because this is the bringing together of ideas from different agencies and organizations in the community."

Johnson went on to say that the project will not only make a big difference for students and their academic pursuits, it will enable more people to view the hard work of local student athletes.

"One of the things we learned this last year was that our kids really like athletics," she said, "and it's really meaningful to the adults in our community to be able to watch the Prineville children engaging in athletics. This connectivity that Facebook is bringing will allow us to continue livestreaming of athletic events."

Crook County Judge Seth Crawford took time to praise the collaboration between Facebook and the multiple local organizations that made the project possible. He added that it "is yet another example of our community coming together to improve the lives of our citizens."

Oregon Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson later stated that this project provides another example of how Prineville is setting itself apart at the state level.

"All across the state of Oregon, Prineville has become the darling of small towns," she remarked. "Mayors, representatives and especially school districts look at what we have accomplished in Prineville and want to emulate that partnership in their small towns."

Regarding the connectivity project, she said the latest Facebook commitment "will expand our fiber lines and provide an incredible Wi-Fi network for Prineville's downtown core, our schools, our library and the fairgrounds."

"With the fiber line infrastructure in place, our farmer's markets, tourists, small businesses and events all win," she said.

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