For Immediate Release
Monday, February 7, 2000
Contact: Ranjit de Silva
NTIA BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS AGENCY EFFORTS
HELP CLOSE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Washington-Assistant Commerce Secretary for Communications and Information and head of NTIA, Gregory L. Rohde, today unveiled a $225.5 million NTIA budget request for FY 2001, that highlights the agency's commitment to help close the gap between Americans with access and those without access to information technologies, tools critical to advancement and economic success.
Last July, NTIA released a study that showed that while more Americans than ever had access to telephones, computers and the Internet, the gap between those with access to these information technologies persists and has widened within the past several years.
"Access to computers and the Internet and other tools of the information age is increasingly critical to successful participation in our digital economy and our society and we need to ensure that everyone has access to these technologies," Rohde said.
The budget request included $97.5 million for programs aimed at closing the digital divide, a top priority for the Clinton-Gore Administration. A major component in the agency's digital divide initiatives is a $45.1 million funding request for the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), a competitive, merit-based program that provides start up money for innovative projects using advanced telecommunications and information technology. The budget request represents a tripling of the funding request from last year.
Another major component is the creation of a new $50 million program to ensure Internet access to all Americans. The purpose of the program is to enable low-income individuals and families, minorities and residents in rural areas who are also falling on the wrong side of the digital divide to acquire connections, training and support needed for full participation in the information economy.
"TOP programs show how advanced telecommunications and information technologies stimulate economic growth, improve the nation's health and education and public safety," Assistant Secretary Rohde said. "The new computer access program will build upon the successful principles of the TOP program to support public/private partnerships designed to connect people to information highway," he said.
And $2 million is also requested for enhancing the environment of broadband (wireless and wire line) communications technology through research and standard development.
The budget also includes a $400,000 request for the "Falling through the Net" study, a statistical survey that measures access to computers, Internet and telecommunications services among different parts of society and in all areas of the country.
The NTIA budget request also includes $110.1 million, a $83.6 million funding increase for its Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning and Construction program. The program consists of helping communities with digital equipment needed by local public broadcasting organizations to meet the Federal requirement to convert to digital transmission.
It also requested $6.3 million to fulfill its responsibilities as the lead government agency in the Administration's initiative to protect, in partnership with the private sector, the nation's critical infrastructure from deliberate attacks.