Clinton pushes for rural access

President Clinton on Wednesday 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. Commerce Department's National

Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Agriculture

Department's Rural Utilities Service in Whiteville, N.C., 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

(D-Minn.), a co-sponsor of the bill.

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