Wide Web, they can connect to other locations.
GT: As governor, you have been instrumental in driving all this.
Gov. Branstad: Yes, and I've taken some flack for that. We are the state with more telephone companies than any other state in America.
GT: What battles did you have to fight? Was it because you wanted to ensure that the network was state-owned?
Gov. Branstad: Actually, we didn't set out to have it state-owned. We put it out for bid. The problem was that we didn't have anybody who wanted to build it to every part of the state. We had no telephone company that served all the state and so we decided that if it was going to happen, the state had to do it.
GT: So it was primarily a problem of universal access to the fiber-optic network?
Gov. Branstad: Yes, that's right. And that is still our goal -- to ensure that every resident and every business has access to the Internet and the World Wide Web in a cost-effective way. A lot of people live in rural Iowa and they have to pay long-distance phone charges just to call a neighbor a few miles away. So we need to be able to overcome those costs and make it cost-effective. And we have our utility regulation board presently reviewing that.
We are also looking at how we can make it so every transaction conducted by state government can be conducted electronically so that people don't have to go to the capital or the state office building. They can do business with the state from their own home using a home computer or from their business or their local government or school or wherever.
GT: This is one of the new technological goals for the state which you just announced?
Gov. Branstad: That's right. I just announced two goals. One was universal access to the Internet and the World Wide Web at a reasonable cost. And the other was that by the year 2000, the state would be able to do business electronically with people in all locations in Iowa from their homes or business.
GT: You have just been appointed chairman of the Education Commission?
Gov. Branstad: Yes, I will chair the Education Commission of the States starting next summer. It is a one-year assignment and it rotates between the parties. I will take over in July 1997 through to July 1998. I'm going to focus on technology because I think that is one of the best things we can do for schools. We had an opportunity to demonstrate some of the technological advances in terms of improving assessment, for example, with the Education Summit last year.
GT: In terms of using technology to improve education, you have maintained that connection is just the first step.
Gov. Branstad: Absolutely. Here's what we did. Some states have made the mistake of spending a lot of money buying hardware and then finding out that teachers don't know how to use it. So I put together this plan for a $150 million investment for technology in school improvement. We had hearings around the state and we determined that each school district ought to put together its own technology plan before they start spending any money. We would provide the money over a five-year period. And they would not have to use it or lose it. They could use it at any point during that time. And the money is also available for staff development because the key is that teachers have to be able to use the technology. In some cases, it's the kids who have a better grasp of the technology than the teachers. So we want to make sure that this money doesn't just go for