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Pelosi Calls For More Broadband, Federal R&D Funding

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for the addition of 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to the U.S. workforce in the next four years by providing more scholarships, financial assistance, and private sector opportunities to college students.

In a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Pelosi pointed to U.S. weaknesses in education and federal funding that has left the door open to developing nations, such as China and India, which are graduating hundreds of thousands of engineers a year more than the U.S. graduates.

In addition, while these countries continue to boost spending on basic research, U.S. federal support has been flat or falling since its peak in 1987, Pelosi said. As a result, some Internet innovation is heading to countries like South Korea, which leads the world in broadband penetration. The U.S. is now 16th.

To reverse these trends, Pelosi offered several Democratic proposals. Among the remedies in the party's new “Innovation Agenda" was the addition of 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians and engineers to the U.S. workforce in the next four years by providing more scholarships, financial assistance, and private sector opportunities to college students.

In addition, the Democrats plan to push for a doubling of federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences, and "promote the public-private partnerships that will translate new ideas into marketable technologies," Pelosi said.

"For example, grants from the National Science Foundation have funded breakthroughs in everything from the Internet, to fiber optics, to nanotechnology," she said. "We commit to doubling this investment."

In addition, the Democrats proposed the creation of research "centers of excellence" across the nation, and an overhaul of the R&D tax credit, which would be made permanent.

In recognition of the importance of the Internet, the Democrat's agenda would guarantee affordable access to broadband within five years for every American. Such a move would propel advanced Internet applications, such as distance learning, healthcare-related information technology, video on demand and Internet telephony, Pelosi said.

"Universal broadband – whether it&'s delivered by Wi-Fi, or WiMax, or hard line -- will put all Americans, no matter where they live, no more than a keystroke or a mouse click away from the jobs and opportunity that broadband both creates and supports," she said.

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