Keys to the Highway


When Bill Clinton presented his economic plan to Congress, his call for massive tax hikes got most of the attention. But buried in the plan was a pledge to build a national electronic "data highway" that would deliver information and entertainment directly to people's home televisions. Although President Clinton claims he's trying to reduce the federal deficit, he'd like to spend upwards of $17 billion over the next four years on putting together this electronic superstructure.

Building a telecommunications highway became one of Clinton's campaign promises last fall, probably upon the insistence of Vice President Al Gore. Gore had been pushing the idea for at least six years in the Senate.

But in the years between Gore's original call for an electronic highway and the delivery of Clinton's economic proposals, private cable companies such as Tele-Communications Inc., Time Warner, and Cablevision Systems Corp. began constructing their own data superhighways. So Clinton's pledge came as a shock to many in the telecommunications industry.

Christopher Dixon, a media analyst for PaineWebber, told Electronic Media that the Clinton administration doesn't seem "to recognize that private enterprise has already built a super telecommunications highway in this country."