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Senator Urges Web in Rural Areas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in Congress have improved thousands of daily lives in rural America by ensuring access to new technology available in metropolitan areas, Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., said today.

``The surest way for my home state of Montana — and for the rest of rural America — to participate in the country's economic prosperity is through high tech,'' Burns, chairman of the Senate telecommunications subcommittee, said in the weekly GOP radio address.

Congress is close to passing legislation that would make it easier to authenticate online signatures, he said. ``That will make it easier for any American who wants to transact business online, but especially folks in rural America.''

When court decisions threatened the availability of local television signals on satellite dishes in rural areas, Burns said the Republicans stepped in with the Satellite Home Viewers act.

``With ... broadcasts and cable delivery limited by geography and distance, many rural viewers depend on satellite TV,'' Burns said. ``The satellite providers told us only the largest markets would receive ... local-to-local service. Working together with other high tech leaders in the House and Senate, we came up with a common-sense response.''

Touching on Internet privacy, Burns said the Federal Communications Commission would be ``too restrictive'' if it regulated online privacy, but he doubted the Internet industry could regulate itself.

He said Republicans are working on ``a plan that will instill consumer trust without cutting off the flow of electronic commerce.''

Also, he said, Congress is working to stimulate ``competition among high-speed Internet providers in rural areas using a variety of innovative technologies.''
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