For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Contact: Morrie Goodman
(202) 482-4883
Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002
Art Brodsky
(202) 482-0019



Whiteville, N.C.- Americans in rural areas lag far behind those in urban areas in access to advanced telecommunications services, according to a new government report President Clinton released here today as part of his New Markets Tour. The advanced services, commonly known as broadband services, provide high-speed Internet access and will be a key to the nation's future economic growth.

The report, prepared jointly by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service, responds to a request by 10 U.S. Senators on the status of broadband deployment in rural versus non-rural areas of the nation and the potential for new technologies to serve rural areas and underscores the call by President Clinton and Vice President Gore to bridge the digital divide.

The report concluded that broadband services have been deployed in urban areas more than in rural communities. It found that broadband over cable has been deployed in more than 65 percent of all cities with populations over 250,000, and that broadband over the telephone network has been deployed in 56 percent of all cities with populations over 100,000, while less than five percent of towns of 10,000 or less have access to either technology. The primary reason for the slower deployment of advanced services in rural areas is economic, the report said. The cost to serve a customer increases the greater the distance among customers.

Noting America's emergence as a leader in the Information Revolution, President Clinton said, "U.S. leadership in information technology illustrates the wisdom of public policies that encourage private sector investment, competition, and technological innovation."

"But the government also 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," the President said in calling for continued support and expansion of present government programs to ensure access of all Americans to new technologies.

"Faster deployment of advanced telecommunications services in rural America is needed to ensure that all Americans can derive the benefits of the digital economy," Commerce Secretary William M. Daley said. "The rate of deployment of broadband services has implications for the welfare of Americans and the economic development of our nation's communities, particularly those in rural areas which can greatly benefit from high-speed connections to urban and world markets," Daley said.

"This report underscores the fact that unless deliberate action is taken to provide support through universal service and develop new broadband technologies, rural citizens are at risk of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide," Daley said. "Marketplace competition has shown to stimulate broadband deployment in many urban areas, but further action is necessary to ensure that all Americans will share in the benefits of the information revolution," he added.

"Access to modern telecommunications is the strength of this nation's future," Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said. "This report shows the important work that is still to be done. Full deployment of broadband availability means full access to the economy of the future," Glickman added.

The report recommends a number of actions including fulfillment of the statutory goals under the Telecommunications Act of 1996; the consideration of universal service support mechanisms to support broadband services; and continued support and expansion to such government initiatives as the E-rate program. The E-rate program provides Internet access to schools and libraries at discounted rates to ensure access to new technologies such as broadband services.

In addition, the report said that support for research on alternative technologies will be crucial to the deployment of advanced services in rural America. It also urged policymakers to implement regulatory reforms to stimulate private sector investment in broadband services.