On a campaign stop near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, President Clinton Thursday outlined an ambitious plan to eventually connect every American school to the Net, upgrade university networks, and form a high-level committee of five technology CEOs to keep the initiatives going.
The three-point plan, which comes about a month before election day, calls for a $500 million federal investment to expand Internet access capabilities at 100 universities, national labs, and other institutions. It comes amid a growing chorus of complaints that Internet gridlock from the mass market is making it harder for the Net's original community--scientists and researchers--to log on.
"Everything ages, and the Internet is straining under its growing popularity," Clinton said today in his speech at Knoxville, Tennessee, the Associated Press reported. "It's now time to invest in the next generation of Internet."
The five-year program, dubbed "Next-Generation Internet," will link 100 sites to an Internet with speeds that are 100 to 1,000 times faster than today's Net. "The new program will promote the development of new applications in scientific research, health care, national security, education, energy research, manufacturing, and the environment," according to a briefing paper.
The government is not alone in its concern about the rise in Internet traffic. IBM has unveiled its Global Campus program that will supply networking hardware, Net access, software, and consulting services to over 30 colleges and universities in addition to the 23 campuses of the California State University system.
In addition, the White House formed a privately funded commission by seven technology chief executive officers whose mission is a long-term commitment to providing computers, software, connectivity, and teacher training to every U.S. school.
The CEOs are Sumner Redstone of Viacom, who will chair the commission; Lynn Forrester, Firstmark Holdings who will be vice chair of the commission; Larry Ellison, Oracle; Gerald Levin, Time Warner; Ray Smith, Bell Atlantic; and Brian Roberts, Comcast.
Some of the executives, such as Ellison, think the Network Computer will play a key role and have proposed this idea to the President before. Clinton has had a rocky relationship with many of Silicon Valley CEOs, who were peeved by his flip-flop on policies that expand investors' rights to sue companies. But they all tend to agree on expanding Net access to schools, not just for social reasons but for business ones.
Many companies see the school market as a lucrative and growing one.
The Internet Services Association Friday called President Clinton's plan to provide free basic Internet services to schools and libraries a "constructive step forward." Executive director Jeff Richards added that his group "also sees education today as an important market in itself, and calls for cooperation to minimize or forestall new regulatory overhead."
Clinton also announced the development of a universal service fund that provides free access for schools to the Internet. This year's Telecommunications Act provided advanced communications services to schools at discounted rates.
Senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, also has made technology a key element of his election campaign. A Dole-Kemp administration promises to encourage businesses to provide computer equipment, teacher training, and maintenance support to America's schools.