Digital doubters – Skeptics see politics in Clinton plan

President Clinton’s plan to invest $2.4 billion in giving poor people and minorities better access to technology and tech training has raised eyebrows among skeptics who see high-tech politics behind the plan, BusinessWeek reports.

“Some critics question the cozy relationship between the White House and the high-tech industry,” the magazine says in its Feb. 14 issue. “They contend that efforts to bridge the divide may be largely political in an era of plunging PC prices and free Web access.”

Citing Forrester Research in Boston, the magazine says 23 percent of black households and 36 percent of Hispanic households are online.

“We’re entering the age of free computing,” Adam D. Theirer of the conservative Heritage Foundation, told BusinessWeek. “This could be a new form of corporate welfare.”

The magazine also reports that on Feb. 3, the same day that Clinton announced his digital plan, Vice President Gore’s top domestic policy adviser unveiled a private-sector initiative, known as “Clickstart,” to supply computer and Internet access to up to nine million poor families for about $15 a month.

Republicans says Clinton is playing up to two key constituencies – low-income minorities and Silicon Valley, which BusinessWeek says is key to political fundraising this election year.

Clinton denies he’s playing politics, saying, “If I had waited for the market to solve universal telephone access, there’d still be places in Arkansas where people wouldn’t have a phone.”

But BusinessWeek suggests that “the biggest legacy of his mini-New Deal for the Net-deprived might be better bottom lines in techland.”

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