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Gore: High tech is shaping policy

At the Microsoft CEO summit, Vice President Al Gore says high technology is forcing major changes in government.

SEATTLE--After revolutionizing the economy and introducing the Information Age, high technology is now forcing major changes in government and policy worldwide, Vice President Al Gore told industry leaders today.

Speaking late this afternoon at the CEO summit held by Microsoft (MSFT) here, Gore said the changes are being driven by a technological revolution that has globalized the marketplace.

As a result, the vice president said, the world now faces "a new age with an entirely new business reality and entirely new challenges."

Gore, the Clinton administration's point man for high-tech issues, made his comments at the extraordinary two-day event, which has drawn more than 100 chief executives and other government leaders.

Also attending the summit was Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who used the occasion to herald a decision announced yesterday by his agency to create a $4 billion annual federal and state matching fund to connect the nation's schools to the Internet. The funds will come from a portion of revenues taken from telecommunications companies.

Gore said the technology revolution is creating an environment to share new ideas that, in turn, have given birth to full-blown industries in the last few years alone. "The true engines of growth are ideas and the technologies created by those ideas," he said.

For example, he cited the birth of the PC and how it developed a market for the mouse, printers, and monitors. "We are developing a new economy that relies on intellectual property, brains, and heart."

While the vice president--widely assumed to be running for president in 2000--waxed poetically with generalizations about the technology revolution, Hundt's comments were more specific.

The FCC chairman noted that, although the government will capture a portion of phone company revenues for placing Internet access in the schools, his agency is not willing to place requirements on the companies to widen their bandwidth for high-speed data networks.

"Our competition policies are designed to permit competition to drive that process. We don't want to have it that the regulations are the forces driving that process," Hundt said.

The issue of phone call prices is another area that is likely to change in the near future.

Microsoft CEO "Bill [Gates] today talked of using the Internet to bring down the telephone price cartel, and that is absolutely right and probably more dramatic than he let on today," Hundt added. "The Internet will probably lower prices for the national communications by about 90 to 95 percent."

Hundt elaborated that the agency is currently engaged in proceedings that may bring this price cutting sooner, instead of waiting around for technology like wider bandwidth for Internet telephony to spur the changes.