Eleven individuals were honored as “Champions of Change” during a White House panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 15, for their efforts to implement innovative government projects using stimulus grant funding as a way to improve different infrastructures.

During the panel’s opening remarks, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — roughly $48 billion — was spent in two years and during that time, employed thousands of people. Through public-private partnerships, stimulus grant projects were deemed a success.

“The work that we do in government cannot be done without our partners,” LaHood said.

White House administration officials and the selected champions discussed transportation and broadband projects funded by stimulus grants currently under way nationwide.

Photo: Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC

Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC, and Donald Welch, president and CEO of Merit Network Inc., were two of the 11 individuals recognized for their efforts to carry out broadband infrastructure projects intended to better serve their respective communities.

MCNC and Merit Network — both nonprofit organizations that develop networking technologies — each received stimulus funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for their projects. Each project is currently under way to connect community anchor institutions like schools, libraries and hospitals to high-speed Internet, according to the NTIA.

Merit Network’s project, which received two grants from the NTIA, serves Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula, and the MCNC’s Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) project serves various communities across North Carolina.

According to the MCNC, BTOP is intended to use $144 million of stimulus money to expand the North Carolina Research and Education Network, which will be completed by 2013.

Photo: Donald Welch, president and CEO of Merit Network Inc.

Merit Network’s REACH-3MC (which is short for Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative) projects will build more than 2,200 miles of network infrastructure, improving broadband service availability in Michigan.

During the panel, Merit Network’s Welch said institutions such as schools face challenges due to decreased resources, so it’s important that communities have strong broadband networks, and through strong partnerships, communities can get the additional infrastructure they need for broadband.

Freddoso said his organization’s broadband project will install 2,600 miles of fiber once completed. Because fiber is being installed every day, job opportunities were made available as a result.

Last year, the White House honored a different set of champions by recognizing software developers who created innovative Web apps using government data.

To see the full list of champions recognized during the Feb. 15 panel discussion, click here.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  | 

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.