I. The Promise of the NII
Imagine you had a device that combined a telephone, a TV, a camcorder, and a personal computer. No matter where you went or what time it was, your child could see you and talk to you, you could watch a replay of your team's last game, you could browse the latest additions to the library, or you could find the best prices in town on groceries, furniture, clothes -- whatever you needed.
Imagine further the dramatic changes in your life if:
Information is one of the nation's most critical economic resources, for service industries as well as manufacturing, for economic as well as national security. By one estimate, two- thirds of U.S. workers are in information-related jobs, and the rest are in industries that rely heavily on information. In an era of global markets and global competition, the technologies to create, manipulate, manage and use information are of strategic importance for the United States. Those technologies will help U.S. businesses remain competitive and create challenging, high- paying jobs. They also will fuel economic growth which, in turn, will generate a steadily-increasing standard of living for all Americans.
That is why the Administration has launched the National Information Infrastructure initiative. We are committed to working with business, labor, academia, public interest groups, Congress, and state and local government to ensure the development of a national information infrastructure (NII) that enables all Americans to access information and communicate with each other using voice, data, image or video at anytime, anywhere. By encouraging private sector investment in the NII's development, and through government programs to improve access to essential services, we will promote U.S. competitiveness, job creation and solutions to pressing social problems.
II. What Is the NII?
The phrase "information infrastructure" has an expansive meaning. The NII includes more than just the physical facilities used to transmit, store, process, and display voice, data, and images. It encompasses:
The NII will integrate and interconnect these physical components in a technologically neutral manner so that no one industry will be favored over any other. Most importantly, the NII requires building foundations for living in the Information Age and for making these technological advances useful to the public, business, libraries, and other nongovernmental entities. That is why, beyond the physical components of the infrastructure, the value of the National Information Infrastructure to users and the nation will depend in large part on the quality of its other elements:
Every component of the information infrastructure must be developed and integrated if America is to capture the promise of the Information Age.
The Administration's NII initiative will promote and support full development of each component. Regulatory and economic policies will be adopted that encourage private firms to create jobs and invest in the applications and physical facilities that comprise the infrastructure. The Federal government will assist industry, labor, academia, and state and local governments in developing the information resources and applications needed to maximize the potential of those underlying facilities. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the NII initiative will help educate and train our people so that they are prepared not only to contribute to the further growth of the NII, but also to understand and enjoy fully the services and capabilities that it will make available.
III. Need for Government Action To Complement Private Sector Leadership
The foregoing discussion of the transforming potential of the NII should not obscure a fundamental fact -- the private sector is already developing and deploying such an infrastructure today. The United States communications system -- the conduit through which most information is accessed or distributed -- is second to none in speed, capacity, and reliability. Each year the information resources, both hardware and software, available to most Americans are substantially more extensive and more powerful than the previous year.
The private sector will lead the deployment of the NII. In recent years, U.S. companies have invested more than $50 billion annually in telecommunications infrastructure -- and that figure does not account for the vast investments made by firms in related industries, such as computers. In contrast, the Administration's ambitious agenda for investment in critical NII projects (including computing) amounts to $1-2 billion annually. Nonetheless, while the private sector role in NII development will predominate, the government has an essential role to play. In particular, carefully crafted government action can complement and enhance the benefits of these private sector initiatives. Accordingly, the Administration's NII initiative will be guided by the following nine principles and goals, which are discussed in more detail below:
IV. Managing Change/ Forging Partnerships
We will help to build a partnership of business, labor, academia, the public, and government that is committed to deployment of an advanced, rapid, powerful infrastructure accessible and accountable to all Americans.
Forging this partnership will require extensive inter- governmental coordination to ensure that Administration, Congressional, state and local government policy regarding the NII is consistent, coherent, and timely. It also requires the development of strong working alliances among industry groups and between government and the businesses responsible for creating and operating the NII. Finally, close cooperation will be needed between government, users, service providers, and public interest groups to ensure that the NII develops in a way that benefits the American people.
Specifically, the Administration will:
The President has convened a Federal inter-agency "Information Infrastructure Task Force" (IITF) that will work with Congress and the private sector to propose the policies and initiatives needed to accelerate deployment of a National Information Infrastructure. Activities of the IITF include coordinating government efforts in NII applications, linking government applications to the private sector, resolving outstanding disputes, and implementing Administration policies. Chaired by Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and composed of high- level Federal agency representatives, the IITF's three committees focus on telecommunications policy, information policy, and applications.
To facilitate meaningful private sector participation in the IITF's deliberations, the President will sign an Executive Order creating the "United States Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure" to advise the IITF on matters relating to the development of the NII. The Council will consist of 25 members, who will be named by the Secretary of Commerce by December 1993. Nominations will be solicited from a variety of NII constituencies and interested parties. The IITF and its committees also will use other mechanisms to solicit public comment to ensure that it hears the views of all interested parties.
In order to implement the ambitious agenda outlined in this document, the federal agencies most directly responsible for the evolution of the NII (such as NTIA, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, and the FCC) must be properly structured and adequately staffed to address many new and difficult policy issues. The Administration intends to ensure that these agencies have the intellectual and material resources they need. In addition, in accord with the Vice President's National Performance Review, these agencies will make the organizational and procedural changes needed to most effectively contribute to the NII initiative.
The Task Force currently is undertaking a wide-ranging examination of all issues relevant to the timely development and growth of the National Information Infrastructure. Specific principles and goals in areas where government action is warranted have already been identified and work has begun on the following matters:
One of the most effective ways to promote investments in our nation's information infrastructure is to introduce or further expand competition in communications and information markets. Vibrant competition in these markets will spur economic growth, create new businesses and benefit U.S. consumers.
To realize this vision, however, policy changes will be necessary:
Action: Passage of communications reform legislation. The Administration will work with Congress to pass legislation by the end of 1994 that will increase competition and ensure universal access in communications markets -- particularly those, such as the cable television and local telephone markets, that have been dominated by monopolies. Such legislation will explicitly promote private sector infrastructure investment -- both by companies already in the market and those seeking entry.
Action: Revision of tax policies. Tax policies are important determinants of the amount of private sector investment in the NII. The President has signed into law tax incentives for private sector investment in R&D and new business formation, including a three-year extension of the R&D credit and a targeted capital gains reduction for investments in small businesses. Both of these tax incentives will help spur the private sector investment needed to develop the NII.
The Communications Act of 1934 articulated in general terms a national goal of "Universal Service" for telephones -- widespread availability of a basic communications service at affordable rates. A major objective in developing the NII will be to extend the Universal Service concept to the information needs of the American people in the 21st Century. As a matter of fundamental fairness, this nation cannot accept a division of our people among telecommunications or information "haves" and "have- nots." The Administration is committed to developing a broad, modern concept of Universal Service -- one that would emphasize giving all Americans who desire it easy, affordable access to advanced communications and information services, regardless of income, disability, or location.
Devising and attaining a new goal for expanded Universal Service is consistent with efforts to spur infrastructure development by increasing competition in communications and information markets. As noted above, competition can make low cost, high quality services and equipment widely available. Policies promoting greater competition in combination with targeted support for disadvantaged users or especially high cost or rural areas would advance both rapid infrastructure modernization and expanded Universal Service.
Action: Develop a New Concept of Universal Service. To gather information on the best characteristics of an expanded concept of Universal Service, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will hold a series of public hearings on Universal Service and the NII, beginning by December 1993. The Administration will make a special effort to hear from public interest groups. Building on the knowledge gained from these activities, the IITF will work with the Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure, as well as with state regulatory commissions, to determine how the Universal Service concept should be applied in the 21st Century.
Government regulatory, antitrust, tax, and intellectual property policies all affect the level and timing of new offerings in services and equipment -- including the technology base that generates innovations for the marketplace. But technological innovations ultimately depend upon purposeful investment in research and development, by both the private sector and government. R&D investment helps firms to create better products and services at lower costs.
As noted in the Administration's February 22, 1993 technology policy statement: "We are moving to accelerate the development of technologies critical for long-term growth but not receiving adequate support from private firms, either because the returns are too distant or because the level of funding required is too great for individual firms to bear." Government research support already has helped create basic information technologies in computing, networking and electronics. We will support further NII-related research and technology development through research partnerships and other mechanisms to accelerate technologies where market mechanisms do not adequately reflect the nation's return on investment. In particular, these government research and funding programs will focus on the development of beneficial public applications in the fields of education, health care, manufacturing, and provision of government services.
Action: Continue the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program. Established by the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991, the HPCC Program funds R&D designed to create more powerful computers, faster computer networks, and more sophisticated software. In addition, the HPCC Program is providing scientists and engineers with the tools and training they need to solve "Grand Challenges," research problems -- like designing new drugs -- that cannot be solved without the most powerful computers. The Administration has requested $1 billion for the HPCC Program in fiscal year 1994, and is in the process of forming a "High-Performance Computing Advisory Committee," to provide private sector input on the Program.
We have also requested an additional $96 million in the FY 1994 budget to create a new component of the HPCC Program -- Information Infrastructure Technologies and Applications (IITA). The Administration is working with Congress to obtain authorization to fund this effort, which will develop and apply high-performance computing and high-speed networking technologies for use in the fields of health care, education, libraries, manufacturing, and provision of government information.
Action: Implement the NII Pilot Projects Program. In its FY 94 budget, the Administration has requested funding from the Congress for NII networking pilot and demonstration projects. Under NTIA's direction, this pilot program will provide matching grants to state and local governments, health care providers, school districts, libraries, universities, and other non-profit entities. The grants will be awarded after a competitive merit review process and will be used to fund projects to connect institutions to existing networks, enhance communications networks that are currently operational, and permit users to interconnect among different networks. Funded projects will demonstrate the potential of the NII and provide tangible benefits to their communities. Equally important, they will help leverage the resources and creativity of the private sector to devise new applications and uses of the NII. The successes of the these pilot projects will create an iterative process that will generate more innovative approaches each year.
Action: Inventory NII Applications Projects. Many insights can be gained by sharing information about how government can effectively use the NII. By the end of January 1994, the IITF will complete an inventory of current and planned government activities and will widely disseminate the results through electronic and printed means. An electronic forum is being established to encourage government and private sector contributions and comments about government applications projects.
Because the NII will be a network of networks, information must be transferable over the disparate networks easily, accurately, and without compromising the content of the messages. Moreover, the NII will be of maximum value to users if it is sufficiently "open" and interactive so that users can develop new services and applications or exchange information among themselves, without waiting for services to be offered by the firms that operate the NII. In this way, users will develop new "electronic communities" and share knowledge and experiences that can improve the way that they learn, work, play, and participate in the American democracy.
To assure interoperability and openness of the many components of an efficient, high-capacity NII, standards for voice, video, data, and multi-media services must be developed. Those standards also must be compatible with the large installed base of communications technologies, and flexible and adaptable enough to meet user needs at affordable costs. The United States has long relied on a consensus-based, voluntary standards-setting process in communications. Particularly in the area of information and communications technology, where product cycles are often measured in months, not years, the standards process is critical and has not always worked to speed technological innovation and serve end-users well. Government can catalyze this industry-driven process by participating more actively in private-sector standards-writing bodies and by working with industry to address strategic technical barriers to interoperability and adoption of new technologies.
To increase the likelihood that the NII will be both interactive and, to a large extent, user-driven, government also must reform regulations and policies that may inadvertently hamper the development of interactive applications. For example, government regulations concerning the lack of reimbursement of health care procedures may deter the growth of distance medicine applications.
Action: Review and clarify the standards process to speed NII applications. By October 15, 1993 the Commerce Department's National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) will establish a panel and work with other appropriate agencies to review the government's involvement in establishing network requirements and standards with domestic and international partners. The panel, with input from the private sector and other levels of government, will consider the role of the government in the standards process and will identify opportunities for accelerating the deployment of the NII.
Action: Review and reform government regulations that impede development of interactive services and applications. The Administration will work closely with the private sector, as well as state and local governments, to identify government policies and regulations that may hinder the growth of interactive services and applications. The IITF will determine how those regulations should be changed.
The trustworthiness and security of communications channels and networks are essential to the success of the NII. Users must be assured that information transmitted over the infrastructure will go when and where it is intended to go. Electronic information systems can create new vulnerabilities. For example, electronic files can be broken into and copied from remote locations, and cellular phone conversations can be monitored easily. Yet these same systems, if properly designed, can offer greater security than less advanced communications channels.
Through the use of information systems, gathering, sending, and receiving a wide variety of personal information is now simple, quick, and relatively inexpensive. The use of information technologies to access, modify, revise, repackage, and resell information can benefit individuals, but unauthorized use can encroach on their privacy. While media reports often emphasize the role of modern information technology in invading privacy, technology advances and enhanced management oversight also offer the opportunity for privacy protection. This protection is especially important to businesses that increasingly transmit sensitive proprietary data through electronic means. In a climate of tough global competitiveness to gain market advantage, the confidentiality of this information can spell the difference between business success or failure.
In addition, it is essential that the Federal government work with the communications industry to reduce the vulnerability of the nation's information infrastructure. The NII must be designed and managed in a way that minimizes the impact of accident or sabotage. The system must also continue to function in the event of attack or catastrophic natural disaster.
Action: Review privacy concerns of the NII. The IITF has developed a work plan to investigate what policies are necessary to ensure individual privacy, while recognizing the legitimate societal needs for information, including those of law enforcement. The IITF has also developed a work plan to investigate how the government will ensure that the infrastructure's operations are compatible with the legitimate privacy interests of its users.
Action: Review of encryption technology. In April, the President announced a thorough review of Federal policies on encryption technology. In addition, Federal agencies are working with industry to develop new technologies that protect the privacy of citizens, while enabling law enforcement agencies to continue to use court-authorized wiretaps to fight terrorism, drug rings, organized crime, and corruption. Federal agencies are working with industry to develop encryption hardware and software that can be used for this application.
Action: Work with industry to increase network reliability. The National Communications System brings together 23 Federal agencies with industry to reduce the vulnerability of the nation's telecommunications systems to accident, sabotage, natural disaster, or military attack. And the Federal Communications Commission has an industry and user Network Reliability Council to advise it on ensuring the reliability of the nation's commercial telecommunications networks. These efforts are increasingly important as the threat posed by terrorism and computing hacking grows. The NCS will continue its work and will coordinate with the IITF. In addition, the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, which advises the President in coordination with the NCS, as well as the FCC's Network Reliability Council, will coordinate with and complement the work of the Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure.
Many of the dramatic changes expected from the development of the information infrastructure will grow out of advances in wireless technologies. The ability to access the resources of the NII at any time, from anywhere in the country, will be constrained, however, if there is inadequate spectrum available. To ensure that spectrum scarcity does not impede the development of the NII, the Administration places a high priority on streamlining its procedures for the allocation and use of this valuable resource.
Action: Streamline allocation and use of spectrum. The Administration is working with Congress to fully implement the spectrum management provisions of the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1993, to streamline government use of spectrum and to get spectrum to the public efficiently. These provisions will provide greater flexibility in spectrum allocation, including increased sharing of spectrum between private sector and government users, increased flexibility in technical and service standards, and increased choices for licensees in employing their assigned spectrum.
Action: Promote market principles in spectrum distribution. Further, the Administration will continue to support policies that place a greater reliance on market principles in distributing spectrum, particularly in the assignment process, as a superior way to apportion this scarce resource among the widely differing wireless services that will be a part of the NII. At the same time, the Administration will develop policies to ensure that entrepreneurs and small, rural, minority- and women-owned businesses are able to participate in spectrum auctions.
Development of an advanced information infrastructure will create unprecedented market opportunities and new challenges for our world-preeminent media and information industries. The broad public interest in promoting the dissemination of information to our citizens must be balanced with the need to ensure the integrity of intellectual property rights and copyrights in information and entertainment products. This protection is crucial if these products -- whether in the form of text, images, computer programs, databases, video or sound recordings, or multimedia formats -- are to move in commerce using the full capability of the NII.
Action: Examine the adequacy of copyright laws. The IITF will investigate how to strengthen domestic copyright laws and international intellectual property treaties to prevent piracy and to protect the integrity of intellectual property. To ensure broad access to information via the NII, the IITF will study how traditional concepts of fair use should apply with respect to new media and new works.
Action: Explore ways to identify and reimburse copyright owners. The IITF will explore the need for standards for the identification of copyright ownership of information products in electronic systems (e.g., electronic headers, labels or signature techniques). The Task Force will also evaluate the need to develop an efficient system for the identification, licensing, and use of work, and for the payment of royalties for copyrighted products delivered or made available over electronic information systems.
- 8. Coordinate with Other Levels of Governmental and With Other Bodies
Domestic: Many of the firms that will likely participate in the NII are now subject to regulation by Federal, state, and local government agencies. If the information infrastructure is to develop quickly and coherently, there must be close coordination among the various government entities, particularly with respect to regulatory policy. It is crucial that all government bodies -- particularly Congress, the FCC, the Administration, and state and local governments -- work cooperatively to forge regulatory principles that will promote deployment of the NII.
Action: Seek ways to improve coordination with state and local officials. The IITF will meet with state and local officials to discuss policy issues related to development of the NII. The Task Force will also seek input from the private sector and non-federal agencies as it devises proposals for regulatory reform. The Administration is committed to working closely with state and local governments in developing its telecommunications policies.
International: The NII also will develop in the context of evolving global networks. Because customers typically demand that U.S. communications providers offer services on a global basis, it is critical that the infrastructure within this country can meet international, as well as domestic, requirements.
Action: Open up overseas markets. The Administration has shown its willingness to work directly on behalf of U.S. firms to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to export telecommunications-related goods and services to potential overseas customers. For example, the Commerce Department is developing new export control policies governing computers and telecommunications equipment manufactured by U.S. firms. These changes will remove export restrictions on many of these products and permit U.S. manufacturers to enter new markets not previously available to them. The Administration will continue to work to open overseas markets for U.S. services and products.
Action: Eliminate barriers caused by incompatible standards. Equally important is the need to avoid trade barriers raised by incompatible U.S. and foreign standards or -- more subtly -- between the methods used to test conformance to standards. Through its participation in international standards committees, the Administration is working to eliminate or avert such barriers.
Action: Examine international and U.S. trade regulations. The IITF will coordinate the Administration's examination of policy issues related to the delivery of telecommunications services to and from the U.S., including claims by some U.S. companies that regulatory practices in foreign countries -- including denial of market access for U.S. carriers and the imposition of excessive charges for completing calls from the United States -- are harming the competitiveness of the industry and the costs charged to U.S. customers for service. The IITF also will reexamine U.S. regulation of international telecommunications services.
- 9. Provide Access to Government Information and Improve Government Procurement
Thomas Jefferson said that information is the currency of democracy. Federal agencies are among the most prolific collectors and generators of information that is useful and valuable to citizens and business. Improvement of the nation's information infrastructure provides a tremendous opportunity to improve the delivery of government information to the taxpayers who paid for its collection; to provide it equitably, at a fair price, as efficiently as possible.
The Federal government is improving every step of the process of information collection, manipulation, and dissemination. The Administration is funding research programs that will improve the software used for browsing, searching, describing, organizing, and managing information. But it is committed as well to applying those tools to the distribution of information that can be useful to the public in their various roles as teachers, researchers, businesspeople, consumers, etc.
The key questions that must be addressed are: What information does the public want? What information is in electronic form? By what means can it be distributed? How can all Americans have access to it? A secondary question is: How can government itself improve through better information management?
Action: Improve the accessibility of government information. IITF working groups will carefully consider the problems associated with making government information broadly accessible to the public electronically. Additionally, several inter-agency efforts have been started to ensure that the right information is stored and available. Finally, to help the public find government information, an inter-agency project has been formed to develop a virtual card catalogue that will indicate the availability of government information in whatever form it takes.
Action: Upgrade the infrastructure for the delivery of government information. The Federal government has already taken a number of steps to promote wider distribution of its public reports. Legislation has been enacted to improve electronic dissemination of government documents by the Government Printing Office. A number of Federal agencies have moved aggressively to convert their public information into electronic form and disseminate it over the Internet, where it will be available to many more people than have previously had access to such information. In the future, substantial improvements will be made to "FedWorld," an electronic bulletin board established by the Department of Commerce's National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which links the public with more than 100 Federal bulletin boards and information centers. These improvements will enhance FedWorld's ability to distribute to the public scientific, technical, and business-related information generated by the U.S. Government and other sources. Finally, a conference will be held in the Fall of 1993 to begin teaching Federal employees how they can use these distribution mechanisms.
Action: Enhance citizen access to government information. In June 1993, OMB prescribed new polices pertaining to the acquisition, use, and distribution of government information by Federal agencies. Among other things, the policies mandate that, in distributing information to the public, Federal agencies should recoup only those costs associated with the dissemination of that information, not with its creation or collection. Moreover, a number of inter-agency efforts are under way to afford greater public access to government information. One project seeks to turn thousands of local and field offices of various Federal agencies into Interactive Citizen Participation Centers, at which citizens can communicate with the public affairs departments of all Federal agencies.
Action: Strengthen inter-agency coordination through the use of electronic mail. To implement the National Performance Review's recommendation on expanded use of electronic mail within the Federal government, an inter- agency coordinating body has been established to incorporate electronic mail into the daily work environment of Federal workers. The group is also sponsoring three pilot projects to expand connectivity that will build a body of experience that other Federal agencies can draw on when they begin to use electronic mail.
Action: Reform the Federal procurement process to make government a leading-edge technology adopter. The Federal government is the largest single buyer of high technology products. The government has played a key role in developing emerging markets for advanced technologies of military significance; it can be similarly effective for civilian technologies. The Administration will implement the procurement policy reforms set forth in the National Performance Review report.
VI. America's Destiny is Linked to our Information Infrastructure
The principles and goals outlined in this document provide a blueprint for government action on the NII. Applying them will ensure that government provides constructive assistance to U.S. industry, labor, academia and private citizens as they develop, deploy and use the infrastructure.
The potential benefits for the nation are immense. The NII will enable U.S. firms to compete and win in the global economy, generating good jobs for the American people and economic growth for the nation. As importantly, the NII promises to transform the lives of the American people. It can ameliorate the constraints of geography and economic status, and give all Americans a fair opportunity to go as far as their talents and ambitions will take them.
Executive Summary Benefits