STATEMENT OF U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY WILLIAM M. DALEY IN SUPPORT OF E-RATE FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES
I applaud Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman William Kennard's announcement that the Commission will consider full funding for the E-rate program for schools and libraries during this second year of the program. We cannot overestimate the importance of access to the Information Age tools required to succeed in this global economy, not only for K-12 students, but also for adults who use libraries and schools after-hours. Tomorrow's economy will demand technological literacy - the E-rate is an important step to ensure that our economy grows strongly and that in the future no one is left behind.
I am pleased to hear that Chairman Kennard has also announced that the FCC will be looking at the Department of Commerce proposal to tie E-rate funding to a requirement that a plan be in place to protect children while accessing the Internet.
The Commerce Department's own "Falling Through the Net" studies have demonstrated that a growing "digital divide" has arisen between Americans with access to new technologies and those without it. The E-rate program will help address this gap. The Commission's continued emphasis on priority funding for rural and poor schools and libraries will also help bridge this divide.
Greater access to the Internet creates more users with better skills and greater demand for services. An American public that is increasingly skilled in and knowledgeable about technology can translate into increased business opportunities, as well as a more skilled workforce for telecommunications and information companies. The specialized provision of these E-rate services also generates new market opportunities for small and established telecommunications and information technology businesses.
The telecommunications and information technology industries are among this nation's most important and fastest-growing economic sectors. Telecommunications service and equipment revenues alone have grown by more than sixty percent between 1993 and 1998. Clearly, the E-rate program for schools and libraries is a small investment that will yield a large dividend for the future of America's children.
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