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New Legislation May Help Minority-Serving Institutions

New Legislation May Help Minority-Serving Institutions
Address the Digital Divide

New legislation co-sponsored by a Congressional Black Caucus member and a Southern senator may help minority-serving institutions address the digital divide.
Legislation from Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., a CBC member, and Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., would help historically Black colleges and universities address access and Internet connection challenges. The Digital Network Technology Act would fund telecommunications projects that aid minority-serving colleges and universities, many of which lack the broad Internet access available at predominantly White universities.
The legislation comes on the heels of a U.S. Commerce Department study last fall that found a shortage in Internet access at many HBCUs. While most institutions had basic connections, many lacked high-speed connections and could not offer broad access to many students.
The bill authorizes $250 million to address these issues, with aid available for Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges as well as HBCUs.
“This legislation offers a significant opportunity for those institutions serving the largest concentrations of the nation’s minority students to keep pace with the advancing technologies of the 21st century,” Cleland said in introducing the bill (S 414) in the Senate. Towns’ bill was introduced in the House as HR 1034. HBCU leaders are seeking broad support for the plan.
“We applaud the bill’s provisions, which will assist HBCUs in overcoming the digital divide,” says Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Arkansas’ Philander Smith College. 

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