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Budget Impasse Takes Toll on Access to 2 Federal Technology Reports

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A White House advisory panel has published two reports to help guide individuals, schools, and communities in their attempts to provide universal access to telecommunications.

The first, titled "KickStart Initiative: Connecting America's Communities to the Information Superhighway," provides a comprehensive guide to the costs of setting up access to telecommunications as well as guidance on copyright issues and case studies of successful attempts to harness the Internet in school districts and other institutions. It also lists addresses on the Internet's World Wide Web for educational and other resources.

Due to the federal government's budget travails, only a limited number of the bound version of the 166-page report have been published. And, ironically, the U.S. Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure, which wrote the report, has been unable to develop a full-text electronic, hyperlinked version of the report on the Web.

For now, a summary of the report can be found at http://www.niiac-info.org/÷niiac/.

A companion document, called "Connecting K-12 Schools to the Information Highway," concludes that connecting all schools to the information highway, as the Clinton administration envisions, would cost between 1.5 percent and 3.9 percent of the national K-12 budget of approximately $330 billion a year. Currently, the report notes, schools spend 1.3 percent of their budgets, or $3.3 billion nationally, on technology.

The report is available from the consulting company that wrote it, McKinsey and Co., 630 Hansen Way, Palo Alto, Calif. 94304.

Grolier Inc., the Connecticut-based publisher of encyclopedias and early-childhood readers, tracks all of the roughly 3.8 million live births in the United States annually in order to sell books to new parents.

Now, the company feels "there is a need for somebody to do for electronic products what we've done for books," said Peter Nalle, Grolier's chief operating officer.

So the company plans to announce this week an agreement with SkillsBank Corp., a Baltimore company that creates software to reinforce such basic skills as reading and arithmetic, to sell versions of the software directly to parents.

Grolier hopes to reinforce what many technology companies are calling the "home-school connection," in which software used in the classroom is made available for children to use on their home computers. (See Education Week, Jan. 10, 1996.)

SkillsBank already sells its software to 13,000 schools nationwide, noted Garry L. McDaniels, SkillsBank's president, providing fertile ground for Grolier to till.

Grolier officials said that it will be a relatively simple matter to match up the ZIP codes of the schools that use SkillsBank software with those of homes in Grolier's electronic database in order to target the product to parents whose children are the right age.

Grolier maintains a website at http://www.grolier.com, while SkillsBank can be found at http://www.skillsbank.com.

Meanwhile, a big provider of educational software to schools has launched a home page on the Web designed to both provide teachers with a structure so they can more effectively use the Internet's massive resources and enable parents and students to work together at home.

Computer Curriculum Corp., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based subsidiary of the cable-television and entertainment giant Viacom Inc., developed CCCnet as a site to provide interactive curriculum on-line.

"What we're reinforcing is the idea that I can go out on the Web, find the information I need, and bring it back and use it to learn," said Lori McBride, a spokeswoman for the company. The first CCCnet unit, called "Energy Flows in Amazonia," for example, contains electronic links to the home page of the National Zoological Park in Washington.

Ms. McBride said that parents with Internet access could also use the page to help their children complete assignments on their home computers.

The site can be found at http://www.CCCnet.com. It currently is available free of charge, though CCC eventually plans to charge for the service.

--Peter West

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