Clinton Pushes for Rural Access

WASHINGTON (04/27/2000) - President Clinton yesterday said that rural America should have easier access to the Internet through high-speed telecommunications services.

Government has a "special obligation to ensure that all Americans, including Americans living in rural communities, have the opportunity to be full participants in the Information Age," Clinton said, and called for expanding government programs to provide more access to new technologies.

Clinton released a report by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service in Whiteville, North Carolina, as part of his New Markets Tour designed to underscore divisions between rural and urban America.

The report concluded that high-speed Internet access through broadband services has been deployed in urban areas far more than in rural communities.

"Faster deployment of advanced telecommunications services in rural America is needed to ensure that all Americans can derive the benefits of the digital economy," said Commerce Secretary William Daley.

Congress and many federal agencies are struggling to figure out how to provide access and equipment to areas far from urban centers.

The Agriculture Department, a prime mover behind providing greater access to farmers, is working to make information and services for farmers available online. And several Democratic senators introduced legislation on April 13 that would provide $11 million a year to develop a National Center for Distance Working to promote telecommuting.

"Rural workers need jobs. High-tech employers need workers. This legislation would create models of how to bring these communities together to find a common solution to these separate challenges," said Sen. Paul Wellstone, a democrat from Minnesota, a co-sponsor of the bill.