For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 6, 2000

Contact: Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002

Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019


Applicants seek $270 million in federal funds, pledge $430 million in non-federal
matching funds for innovative, advanced technology projects in underserved communities.

Washington- The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced it has received grant applications proposing 662 projects that support the innovative use of advanced technologies to bring the benefits of information technology to underserved areas of the country.

The applications, from 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are part of the public/private sector effort to close the nation's digital divide. In a July 1998 report, the Commerce Department said the gap between those with access and those without access to information technology, tools critical for economic success and advancement, had widened significantly.

The projects outlined in the applications seek $270 million in federal funds in Fiscal Year 2000 under the Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), NTIA's highly-competitive, merit-based program. TOP provides start-up money for innovative, practical projects that use advanced telecommunications and information technology. Applicants pledged $430 million in non-federal matching funds.

"One of TOP's main goals is to stimulate people across the country to think about how to take advantage of opportunities afforded by the new information technologies," Gregory L. Rohde, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and administrator of NTIA, said.

"The large number of applicants indicates that not only are there a lot of innovative ideas on how to apply advanced telecommunications services (throughout the country), but there are tremendous needs," Rohde said. "For every one dollar in available TOP grants we have more than $20 in requests - this underscores the need for this program and how critical it is to help close the digital divide," he added.

The deadline for applications was March 16th. TOP now begins the comprehensive and highly competitive review process. Decisions will be announced in September. In all, approximately $12.5 million will be available for TOP grants this year.

"We encourage people who are interested in learning more about the TOP grant program - about the projects we have funded and the lessons learned from evaluation studies of the projects - to visit the web site ( and follow the pointers to "grants") or call TOP at (202) 482-2048," Rohde said.

The TOP program was initiated in 1994. It has awarded $135 million in federal grant funds that has spurred more than $339 million in total investments. TOP awards grants annually to non-profit organizations and state, local and tribal governments to help bring the benefits of information technology to rural and underserved areas.

NTIA serves as the principal adviser to the President, Vice President and the Secretary of Commerce on domestic and international telecommunications policies and represents the Executive Branch before Congress, federal agencies, foreign governments and international organizations.