SAN FRANCISCO (04/27/2000) - President Bill Clinton focused on closing the "digital divide" in rural parts of the country while speaking in North Carolina on Wednesday.
The president, who is on the second swing of his "New Markets" initiative to spread communications technology and Internet access throughout the country, visited tiny Whiteville, N.C. "I believe that this digital economy we're living in gives us the chance to move more people, more quickly, out of poverty and also lack of opportunity than any other economic model in all of human history," Clinton said during a meeting with local business executives and politicians.
Clinton continued to push his administration's various proposals to improve Internet access in low-income and rural areas. He said he was optimistic that Congress would adopt the plan, which includes tax credits for private-sector contributions and funding for community computer centers. "I believe we'll get some legislation out of this that will pass overwhelmingly," Clinton said.
Clinton's trip coincided with the release of a showing that rural areas lag behind urban and suburban areas in Net connectivity. More than 56 percent of cities with over 100,000 people had high-speed digital subscriber line, or DSL, service, compared with just 5 percent of towns under 10,000, the report stated.
For high-speed cable modem service, 65 percent of cities with more than 250,000 residents had connections, compared with fewer than 5 percent of towns under 10,000.
Before speaking to Whiteville residents, Clinton surfed the Internet over a high-speed wireless link-up. Such wireless broadband service could offer a more economical means of connecting sparsely populated areas. Irwin Jacobs, chairman of the wireless infrastructure provider Qualcomm, demonstrated two laptop Internet connections for the president, one using a 2.4 Gb wireless connection and the other relying on a 28.8 Kb phone connection.
"This is terrific," Clinton said as the high-speed connection downloaded a Christmas photograph of his family and displayed streaming video of a feature film preview.