Digital divide grants closing out
- By Graeme Browning
- Feb 06, 2002
The Bush administration's budget proposal for the National Telecommunications
and Information Administration practically zeroes out a program that brings
technology to underserved areas but includes funding for systems to improve
the agency's radio spectrum management.
Congress appropriated $42.5 million in funding in fiscal 2001 for the
Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), which NTIA administers for the Commerce
Department. In fiscal 2002, TOP received $12.4 million for matching grants
to state and local governments, schools, libraries and other organizations
through the program. TOP grants aim to close the digital divide by helping
recipients build networks and buy technology.
Last October, NTIA announced it had awarded $42.8 million in TOP grants
to 74 nonprofit organizations across the country and in Puerto Rico. For
fiscal 2003, however, NTIA is requesting only $224,000 for TOP to help close
out those existing grants.
TOP "was meant to be a laboratory of sorts, to show individuals how
to better use technology," NTIA administrator Nancy Victory said at a press
briefing Feb. 4. "Clearly that awareness campaign was successful, but awareness
is not the issue any more."
"This program has been successful, but is no longer necessary to stimulate
innovation in an industry that thrives on change and new applications,"
Most of the $3.3 million in additional funds in NTIA's $61.4 million
budget request is for the modernization of its Table Mountain Radio Quiet
Zone test facility in Colorado, which also supports research conducted by
Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration.
NTIA also has asked for $340,000 in new money to institute an electronic
filing system for wireless spectrum licenses and $285,000 to fund a collaborative
effort with the State Department and the Federal Communications Commission
to overhaul the management of the federal radio spectrum.
This effort, plus the system for spectrum license filing and management,
will improve NTIA's ability to meet the demand for wireless communication
systems and services, particularly in the public safety arena, Victory said.
"The idea here is to be more efficient, more effective, and to make
the [spectrum management] process less time-consuming for those outside
government," she said.