Office of the Vice President

Remarks by Vice President Al Gore
Digital Divide Event

Tuesday, April 28, 1998

(As prepared for delivery)

We meet today to break down walls. At each critical point of our nation's history, we have acted on our duty to give every citizen the chance to live out the American Dream. In the Agricultural Age, we ensured that land went not only to the privileged few, but to the common yeoman farmer. In the Industrial Age, we focussed on making sure that all Americans -- and not just the industrial barons -- had access to capital. Today, in the Information Age, connecting all our people to a universe of knowledge and learning is the key to ensuring a lifetime of success.

The facts are clear -- and startling. Five years ago, 3 million people were connected to the Internet. Two years ago, 40 million people were connected. Last year, it was 100 million. No one knows where we will be next year, but the course is clear: technology is transforming our lives. Today, we can order blue jeans and cars custom-made to our specifications. Small businesses spring up overnight and provide services to millions. Schools are using the Internet to explore the Red Planet, dissect virtual frogs, and learn foreign languages. The Information Age is all around us -- and it's here to stay.

First, by this time next year, every child in every school in our urban centers will have access to the Internet regardless of how much their family earns, where they live, or the color of their skin.

With the e-rate, we will make an unprecedented commitment to connect classrooms and libraries to the Internet. The e-rate offers discounts of 20 to 90 percent on telecommunications services, internal connections, and Internet access -- with the deepest discounts going to the poorest urban and rural schools.

I believe that when we look back on this moment years from now we will see the beginning of the e-rate as momentous moment which changed the shape of the country, much like the Homestead Act transformed the America of the last century. I would like to offer special thanks to FCC Chairman Bill Kennard for his passionate commitment to eliminating the digital divide. And I would like to Congress for their foresight in making this important commitment to our children.

Second, by this time next year, each of the 53,000 Native American children in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools will have access to the Internet through Net Days next month and e-rate discounts.

Third, we need hard numbers on which American children are being left out of the digital revolution. That is why I am directing the Commerce Department to study Internet and computer usage among all segments of society, and report back on the findings within three months.

Even when charged up with electricity, a computer is a cold and lifeless piece of circuitry. It has no soul of its own.

It is up to us -- at this moment in our history -- to decide where the miraculous march of progress will take us. We can let technology be a negative force that furthers divisions, or we can use it to connect all Americans together and give them the same shot at success. I believe that this can be a golden moment for our nation -- if all of us work together to seize its promise.

Now I would like to talk to some kids around the country who've benefitted from the work that labor unions have done in connecting them to a brighter future...

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