Senate ‘Digital Divide’ Bill Gains House Companion

Senate ‘Digital Divide’ Bill Gains House Companion
By Charles Dervarics

A bill to combat the digital divide at Black, Hispanic-serving and tribal colleges will get a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., proposed the bill as H.R. 2183. It is a companion to a Senate-approved plan from Sen. George Allen, R-Va. (see Black Issues, May 22). Both bills would create a new grant program at the National Science Foundation to help minority-serving institutions (MSIs) bridge the digital divide.

“Minority-serving institutions lack even the standard information and digital technology infrastructure, placing students at a disadvantage to compete and qualify for America’s best-paying jobs,” Forbes says.

Through the bill, MSIs could purchase digital and wireless networking technologies and infrastructure equipment along with hardware, software and equipment upgrades. As a result, colleges could increase their connectivity rates and improve access to campus networks.

“These grants will assist all HBCUs in bringing their technologies to acceptable levels,” says Tom Reed, a spokesman for Virginia State University. He said the bill would be particularly helpful in the university’s new programs in computer science and manufacturing engineering.

Allen’s bill cleared the Senate by a unanimous vote. Action on the House companion bill may occur later this year.

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