April 16, 2003

The Ever-Shifting Internet Population: A new look at Internet access and the digital divide

Appendix B

Background on current legislative issues impacting technology programs

There are two federally funded programs designed to lessen the gap between those who have Internet access and those who do not.  The Technology Opportunities Program was initiated to enable widespread access to digital network technologies in the public and non-profit sectors.12 At the local level, the Community Technology Centers Program was established to develop community technology centers that provide disadvantaged residents of economically distressed communities access to information technology and training.13

Since the inception of the TOP program in 1994, the Department of Commerce has provided approximately $193 million for 530 TOP grants, while the Department of Education has issued 227 CTC grants worth a total of $74 million since 1999 (Wright, 2002).

In February 2002, a report released by The Department of Commerce titled, “A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet” suggested that the success of the TOP and CTC programs, along with other market factors, had sufficiently narrowed the digital divide in America.  Shortly after the report’s release, the Bush Administration announced that funding for the TOP and CTC programs was no longer a priority and would be phased out by 2003.14

After much protest from civil rights and minority advocates, a Senate appropriations subcommittee decided to restore funding for both programs in July.  In February of 2003, the federal budget passed with full funding for both the CTC and TOP programs. Both programs received the same amount as for fiscal year 2002, with the CTC program receiving $32 million and the TOP program $15 million. However, the Bush administration has stated their intention to push for drastic cuts for 2004.15