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Fiber Optic Network Advocated as 21st-Century Railroad

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ITHACA, N.Y., Sept. 27 -- A national network that transmits information rapidly could be "the railroad of the 21st century," says Matthew Drennan, professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University.

The federal government played a crucial role in the development of railroads, telephone and electric power networks, highways and airports that led to our modern economy, and it must now ensure that all places have the same access -- for the same cost -- to a high-speed, wide-band, fiber optic network, Drennan writes in The Information Economy and American Cities (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).

Organizations that have already invested heavily in the information economy are doing much better than those still relying on manufacturing and distribution, Drennan writes; he also shows how information-economy expansion benefits even the urban poor, disproving earlier claims.

Drennan notes that a lack significant federal participation means that only the most lucrative metropolitan markets are getting wired, especially those with a college-educated population. He faults states for greatly expanding their spending on prisons but not their spending on higher education in recent years, and he calls for an increase in such funding at all levels of government.

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Sep 2002
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