Minorities could receive $250 million a year in tech grants

Minority colleges and universities would be able to apply for $250 million a year in federal technology grants, according to a bill that's up for a vote Wednesday.

The House Science committee is scheduled to consider the measure, which would award $1.25 billion over a five-year period in a broad grant program that would fund nearly any type of computer hardware or software. Cash would be doled out by the Commerce Department.

Funds may go to any "computer and communications equipment and software that facilitates the transmission of information in a digital format." That definition could include everything from computers to iPods, video games and cell phones (and invite the kind of waste and fraud problems that have plagued the government's E-rate grant program).

The bill, H.R. 921, defines minorities as "American Indian, Alaskan native, black (not of Hispanic origin), Hispanic (including persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Central or South American origin), or Pacific Islander individual." That apparently disqualifies anyone from, for instance, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, or Vietnam.

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