Technicity Times
    Issue 2• February 2003

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Funding Community Technology

Success Stories, Action Ideas, and Resources
Tech Policy Bank Online

By James Lau

Sustainable funding, that supports Community Technology programs and ensures they continue to operate, is a continuing challenge. Today, there are additional external factors that make sustainability more difficult: the current fiscal climate has reduced charitable giving by foundations and state and local governments; and the federal government's priorities have led to the elimination of two CTC (Community Technology Center) grant programs.

A promising source of sustainable funding can be created at the state and local level through public policies-the laws that are passed by the legislature or the regulations that are formulated by the executive branch. Throughout the country, many public policies related to community technology have been enacted. In addition, behind each public policy are valuable strategies and lessons learned-practical information communities can use to replicate similar policies. These policies, strategies, and lessons have all been captured for civic leaders and advocates in a web resource produced by The Children's Partnership, called Tech Policy Bank (http://www.techpolicybank.org).

Tech Policy Bank was created to assist community members and policymakers with developing policies that support community technology. Tech Policy Bank reports on and analyzes innovative public policy efforts from across the nation. Through applied research, Tech Policy Bank distills these efforts into models that communities can pursue. Some examples include:

" The city of Atlanta. Every set number of years (usually 10 to 15 years) local governments renegotiate their cable franchise agreement, which stipulates the services and terms between the city and the cable operator. As a result of Atlanta's negotiation in 1999, the city received $8.1 million to support community technology;

" The state of Texas. In 1995, as part of Texas's reconfiguration of its telecommunications regulatory structure, the state assessed a fee on telecommunications carriers, which generates $150 million per year for the next 10 years. These funds are used to purchase advanced telecommunications infrastructure, such as computers, printers, and wiring; and

" The state of Illinois. In addition to setting aside money in the state budget, the state also received money in a settlement with a telecommunications company that was charged with unscrupulous business practices. The state received $30 million. They used the money to create two Digital Divide funds to support activities related to technology center management, computer-related training and instruction, and the creation and maintenance of infrastructure.

These examples are just a brief look into the variety of policies that are beginning to create sustainable funding. A more in-depth look, as well as many more examples, can be found on Tech Policy Bank (http://www.techpolicybank.org). The site has many other features such as, national policy trends, data, and policy recommendations. Finally, anyone can sign up for the listserv that alerts readers, approximately every other month, on current policy actions and resources. Using these models, communities can advocate for policies that begin to create sustainable funding.



James Lau is technology program manager for The Children's Partnership. jlau@childrenspartnership.org

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