B>Editor's Note: Lately our mailbag has been stuffed with an unprecedented amount of mail. It's time once again for us to be quiet and let you talk back.
Commerce's NII Role
Liz Skinner's article, "Corporation for Public Cybercasts Irks Providers" (WT, May 11) contains several misconceptions regarding the role of the Department of Commerce's programs to support the emerging National Information Infrastructure. The article stated incorrectly that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded $24.4 million for community networking projects and also implied wrongly that these funds constituted an improper subsidy of Free-Nets.
The Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) is a new initiative that supports non-profit public service organizations as well as state and local governments with grants to demonstrate innovative uses of telecommunications technologies to address social problems. TIIAP requires applicants to raise matching funds - federal funds constitute no more than half of a project's costs. Contrary to Skinner's article, TIIAP does not intend to, nor could it, provide subsidies for competition with the private sector. TIIAP's role is to search out and fund unique demonstration projects whose successes, once documented, will be replicable through investment of private sector funds. TIIAP seeks to fund a national set of models that provide a variety of solutions to the ongoing integration of information technology in society.
TIIAP held its first grant round in 1994, and was greeted by a groundswell of more than a thousand applications requesting more than a half billion dollars, and raising an even larger sum in matching funds. TIIAP's second grant round closed in April 1995, and received over 1,700 applications. Such a strong response reflects a clear commitment by the public and non-profit sectors, and by their many partners in private industry, to invest in and master information technologies.
The article also misrepresented the amount of TIIAP funding awarded to Free-Nets. After an extremely competitive round in 1994, TIIAP awarded $24.4 million to 92 projects in 45 States that covered a wide range of social services, from education to health care to libraries to community information projects. A total of $7.4 million was awarded to 27 community information projects, which supported a variety of efforts such as public-access library terminals and community bulletin boards. Of this sum, about $850,000 was awarded to three "Free-Net" projects, which included a grant of $450,000 to the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN).
NPTN received the TIIAP grant for an innovative demonstration project that creates 30 rural Free-Nets at sites chosen in a nation-wide competition. With TIIAP's support, NPTN will demonstrate a new form of access to the Internet that is especially tailored to small rural communities. These communities are typically bypassed by commercial service providers, particularly Internet access providers, because the low population densities do not provide adequate economies of scale to be profitable. By creating a very low-cost package that provides basic Internet services, NPTN has provided a valuable model for similar communities across the nation. I would also like to note the NPTN project funded by TIIAP is unrelated to the recently proposed Corporation for Public Cybercasting. TIIAP takes no position on such proposals.
TIIAP's success is possible because of the active and productive partnerships established between non-profit, public, and private organizations and private industry. Many telephone, cable, and computer companies have generously contributed their technical expertise to help non-profit organizations effectively utilize information infrastructure. For example, the Charlotte's Web project in North Carolina has brought together the public library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County with Southern Bell, Time-Warner Cable, Vision Cable, and other companies to create a vibrant local network that includes 114 public access terminals in schools and neighborhood centers. Charlotte's Web and other TIIAP-funded projects are creating models that can be replicated in other communities across the nation.
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
Dr. Acronym, Heal Thyself
One would think that criticisms of a publication such as Washington Technology would relate to issues of business and technology rather than the issues of "good taste." However, the "joke" included in the Dr. Acronym column (WT, June 22) begs such criticism, and gives the reader reason to question the decision to include this particular column in the Netplex section rather than in the trash can where it belongs.
The good doctor should have been less concerned about E-mail concerning perpetuation of a hoax and more concerned about perpetuating a sick joke concerning a man who is fighting to overcome the devastating results of an unfortunate accident.
Rather than prove Dr. Acronym to be an "interactive humor column," which the column normally contains, this poor attempt at badinage merely proves that the old adage "Doctor heal thyself" applies to more than just physicians.
Dennis L. Sossi
Keep Up the Good Work
Of all the technology publications received by this office, we find Washington Technology to be the most informative.
Keep up the good work.
Anthony T. Lane
Intellectual Property Counsel
Department of the Army
Too Many Standards
In your story titled "Loral, Army Relive FAA Nightmare" (WT, July 27) you stated:
"...The contract was to have outfitted Army installations with standard computer hardware and software to support daily administrative tasks.
"To contain costs, the Army has reduced the number of software applications to be developed from 89 to 53..."
Since when does standard software to support daily administrative tasks require the development of 53 new software applications?
I believe that the Army and taxpayers need to look a little farther than these sentences for an explanation of what is so wrong with this procurement in particular and Army procurement in general.