Digital divide program in peril

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sent a letter to the White House last week expressing

his concern about reported attempts to cut funding for a program that brings

technology to underserved areas.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget director Mitchell Daniels,

Upton expressed his "alarm and deep dismay" regarding news reports that

funding for the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) would be cut from

$42.5 million to $15 million next fiscal year.

TOP is a program administered by the Commerce Department that provides matching

grants to state and local governments, schools, libraries and other organizations

to help them build networks and buy technology. TOP takes aim at the digital

divide, which is the gap between those who have access to technology and

those who do not.

Last year for example, Crisis Services of North Alabama was one of the groups

to receive TOP funding. The $361,992 it received via TOP will go toward

developing HELPnet, which is a network of kiosks and workstations located

throughout the county to provide information on community services.

"Eliminating nearly two-thirds of the program's entire funding would have

a devastating effect on our efforts to ensure that innovative technology

— and the opportunity it affords — is available to all Americans," Upton

said in his letter. He is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee

on Telecommunications and the Internet.

The Wall Street Journal first published reports of the potential budget

cuts, which motivated Upton's letter. A Commerce spokesman said no final

decision had been made on the budget numbers, according to the article.

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