NTIA funds model Internet projects

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration last week awarded $18.6 million in matching grants for technology projects designed to link rural communities and inner cities using the Internet and on-line services.

Under the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) state institutions receive seed money for projects selected in part because they could serve as models for other states. Sixty-seven recipients received grants.

"Every one of these projects is funded by local communities. It's not top down it's bottom up " said Larry Irving assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information and administrator of NTIA. "You're telling us what you need we provide matching [funds] and you go out and build it."

The Western Governors' Association received $50 000 from TIIAP to begin a SmartStates initiative to "coordinate information sharing and bring states together to work on regional application development " said Chris McKinnon program manager at the WGA.

Initial partners in the project will include 18 Western states and three Pacific Islands that will create standards for interconnectivity. Those partners will decide which government services applications to develop on a regional basis. Among the applications being considered is the use of smart cards to deliver mother-and-child health care services.

In another program 2 000 small businesses in 18 Arkansas towns will form an electronic network based upon the Internet to exchange information and research in an effort to revitalize downtown areas. Main Street Arkansas a state program coordinating the project received $130 700 from TIIAP and about $140 000 from the state to complete it.

"If ours works well I imagine it will be a model for other states " said Marian Boyd state coordinator for Main Street in Arkansas one of 35 states that have the Main Street program.

Other projects that received money include:* A plan to integrate Arizona's three Enterprise Communities along the Arizona-Mexico border into the Arizona Telemedicine Network.* A secure pilot network for law enforcement agencies in four California communities to share digitized photo images.* An effort to extend access to an existing statewide Internet service to Oklahoma's public safety agencies to access real-time weather information.* A data network for public safety agencies in central Utah consisting of a wireless secure communications system that will link mobile laptop computers in police fire and ambulance vehicles.

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