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Net sites host Clinton speech

The Internet tunes in to the president's State of the Union address along with its traditional media counterparts.

During his State of the Union address tonight, President Clinton did not discuss allegations that he had sexual relations with a White House intern and later told her to lie about it. But he did talk about the Internet.

Last year, news of the O.J. Simpson civil trial verdict upstaged President Clinton's State of the Union address--on and off the Net. Tonight the president was expected to have the nation's undivided attention.

Many people likely tuned in via TVs, radios, and PCs, to see if Clinton would talk about former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Rather, he urged Congress to put Social Security first, pass new trade acts with other nations, and retrain displaced workers. He also warned that nations would have to address the brewing conflict in Iraq.

When discussing education, the Internet came up as usual. He said the nation should take steps to ensure that "every child can stretch a hand across a keyboard and reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed."

Clinton also stated that "the information age is first and foremost an education age." Before closing, Clinton asked Congress to support the building of the Next Generation Internet, and said that parents must be given technological tools to bar their children's access to inappropriate material on the Net.

Web sites geared up for increased traffic levels due the address, though they have been jumping all week due to the intense online coverage of the scandalous allegations surrounding Clinton. The Net already has played a huge part in covering the story this week. (See related story)

Starting at 6 p.m. PST, sites featuring live audio or video coverage of the speech included: Fox News, FedNet, ABCNews.com, C-SPAN hosted by AudioNet, and BBC News of the United Kingdom.

"We've seen heavy traffic all week. There is every reason to believe that we'll have more viewership than the State of the Union would normally get," Katherine Dillon, vice president of ABCNews.com, said earlier today. "We do everything we can to make sure we have as much bandwidth as possible. We hope we can handle the larger volume of traffic."

ABCNews.com held a live Net chat hosted by Washington correspondent Bob Woodruff to discuss the reaction to the speech.

Aside from C-SPAN, AudioNet also hosts online commentator Eliot Stein, who gave his two cents during the address.

"I think we'll see a lot more traffic because of the whole controversy surrounding the president," Kevin Parke, vice president of AudioNet, said earlier today. "Secondly, based on our increased traffic and the Internet's growing popularity, I think a lot more people will tune into the Net for the unique coverage we can bring. We carried the Super Bowl on Sunday, so we already have built in the capacity to handle this type of event."

C-SPAN online carried live responses from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other members of Congress. In addition, the Senate Republican Conference provided online audio and video responses to the president's address from senators in every state.

And tomorrow, Washington Post political columnist David Broder will discuss the speech online within the Post's new Net politics section. Users also can find Newsweek's anticipated story on Clinton and Lewinsky at the site.