Press Release

Access to Technology Linked to Economic Viability

WASHINGTON (May 26, 1999) -- Citing concerns about a widening digital divide, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and Dearborn Mayor Michael Guido released a letter signed by Conference President and Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini and Conference Vice President Wellington E. Webb, along with more than twenty other leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors to FCC Chairman Bill Kennard urging the Commission to fund the E-Rate program at $2.25 billion for next year.

"Nothing in recent memory, other than the civil-rights struggle, has had the potential to either unite or divide our country the way access to technology does today," Campbell said. "The E-Rate program is creating access to technology in cities and towns all across America. To scale down - or even worse, dismantle the program - would be nothing less than a disaster."

"The E-Rate program is making a difference in my community," said Guido. "Now is the time for the federal government to step up and make a full commitment to the program."

In the letter, the Mayors called on the FCC to fund the program up to the existing cap of $2.25 billion dollars. "As technical competence increasingly defines success in the economy, it is critical for schools and libraries to have access to the Internet," the Mayors say. "In our cities, E-Rate provides a crucial platform for our most under-served schools to get online. At the same time, libraries are serving as a hub of information for adults, families and small businesses, especially in rural areas."

The letter continues, "The E-Rate program helps bridge the gap between wealthy, poor, urban and rural communities by providing the deepest discounts to those with the greatest need. We strongly urge the FCC to support the program by setting next year’s funding level at the cap of $2.25 billion."

In a news conference at the Capitol, Mayors Campbell and Guido were joined by Representative Bobby Rush, and Ray Ewick, president of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA). The E-Rate program is working across the country, and is especially important to rural areas or economically disadvantaged urban areas, where access to technology and the Internet is not as cost efficient.

"Within two years, 60 percent of available jobs will require information technology skills - but in 1998 only 39 percent of high-poverty classrooms had access to the Internet," Campbell said. "Among households with incomes of $70,000 or more, over 75 percent have computers, while less than 15 percent of households with incomes below $10,000 have computers. Public access to technology through our schools and libraries is many Americans’ link to the future."

Contact: Kevin McCarty, 202.861.6711