In his first campaign speech devoted to science and technology, President Bill Clinton today pledged $100 million to a National Science Foundation (NSF) effort in 1998 to improve and expand the Internet. NSF's effort is part of a wider government and industry initiative to encourage use of the computer network in the nation's schools, hospitals, and military.
"Let's give America Internet II," he told a cheering crowd in an auditorium in Knoxville, Tennessee. "This will enable universities to communicate with each other 100 to 1000 times faster than they can do today."
NSF is now spending about $10 million a year on an effort to build a very high speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS), which today connects 13 universities. The target is to link 100 to vBNS within 3 years. "We're very excited" about Clinton's pledge to boost vBNS substantially, says George Strawn, NSF networking division director. "This will give us a chance to develop this at a much more rapid rate," he says. Universities and research labs will benefit first from the system, which could serve as a model for a commercial version.
Standing at the president's side, Vice President Al Gore used the occasion to attack Republican R&D policies and criticize Dole's plan to cut energy funding, which, Gore charged, would eliminate much of the budget for nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Closing the doors of Oak Ridge National Laboratory would be a sad step backward for the United States of America," Gore said. That line went down well with the audience, which included many Oak Ridge workers.