Web Access For 'Have-Nots'

Concerned that too many students may miss out on the revolution in information technology, Vice President Al Gore is proposing a plan for getting Internet access into more urban and American Indian schools.

The vice president Tuesday was announcing a strategy for setting up the Internet in every school in the nation's 50 largest school districts and 185 schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to two administration officials who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity.

The goal is to get those schools wired by this time next year, the officials said. Efforts to connect Indian schools, which serve 53,000 children, are to begin May 16, when volunteers will establish Internet connections in 28 schools, the officials said.

Gore was announcing the initiative Tuesday at an event with Education Secretary Richard Riley and Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard.

Under Gore's plan, Internet access would be provided through a special "education rate" initiative that offers steep discounts for the service to public and private schools and libraries, the officials said.

The proposal also calls for a Commerce Department analysis of trends in Internet usage, to determine whether there is a racial divide "between informational haves and have-nots," one official said.

And, it seeks to establish guidelines through the Department of Education to set up on-line mentoring, through which students can get access to information through a special Ask An Expert service.

The vice president, considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, also planned to praise union workers who have devoted their weekends and other free time to setting up Internet connections in 700 of the nation's poorest schools.