GAO: Patent Office can reimburse teleworkers for high-speed Internet

Teleworkers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office can now be reimbursed for their high-speed Internet costs.

Last Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office fulfilled a request from Barry Hudson, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's acting chief financial officer, to get an advance decision to pay for high-speed Internet access for patent and trademark teleworkers.

Telework is an initiative that allows agency workers to perform their duties away from their home offices. The software needed to work on secure networks normally requires high-speed Internet access.

GAO decided to allow reimbursement, but not without oversight.

“PTO may reimburse employees for high-speed Internet access, but we recommend that PTO periodically review reimbursements to ensure that it has adequate safeguards against private misuse,” GAO General Counsel Gary Kepplinger stated in the decision.

GAO also said PTO funds can only be used for the Internet connection, not for installation, initiation or equipment costs. The maximum allowable reimbursement would be $100 a month.

Because patent examiners' work is production-oriented, most telework agreements will measure the output of workers biweekly, quarterly or annually, depending on the nature of the specific work and the amount of time spent on telework.


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