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Cisco CEO calls for education reform and broadband push

The chief executive of Cisco Systems told the US Congress it needs to invest more in the US education system and do more to encourage broadband adoption.

Cisco president and chief executive officer John Chambers did not offer specific suggestions to congress in his speech on US competitiveness, but said that the tech industry views improving the US education system as a top priority.

"In the end the jobs will go to where the best-educated workforce is, with the right infrastructure," he told congressional staffers and others gathered at an Information Technology Industry Council high-tech summit in Washington, DC.

Fewer than 6% of master's degrees issued in the US in 2001-02 were in engineering, and fewer than 1% were in maths, Chambers noted.

The US is also lagging behind most industrialised nations in broadband adoption, Chambers said. Japanese consumers have access to broadband speeds 400% to 500% faster than in the US, he said. "We've got to move faster," Chambers added.

He praised the US House of Representatives for passing the Stock Option Accounting Reform Act, which reverses an accounting standard issued by the US Financial Accounting Standards Board requiring firms to expense their stock options on their balance sheets.

The legislation, which has not yet passed the Senate, also requires the US departments of Commerce and Labor to complete a study on the economic impact of expensing of stock options. The study would also focus on whether stock options help recruit and retain workers and whether they stimulate research and innovation.

Chambers called on the senate to pass the legislation and act to encourage stock options.

"Ownership, whether you're living in a house or owning a piece of the company, should be encouraged in this country," he said.

House speaker Dennis Hastert, also urged congress to act on legislation that would help the tech industry.

He noted the house has passed both the stock options bill and an Internet tax moratorium, but the issues have hit snags in the Senate.

Hastert said congress needed to continue to re-evaluate regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, needs to pass lawsuit reform laws, and needs to continually look at tax rates that US businesses pay.

By the time a US product goes to market, it has been taxed several times, including real estate and employee taxes, Hastert said. "Taxes are embedded into products," he said.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi agreed with Chambers that the US needs to invest more money in its education system.

"Nothing does more to bring money into the economy and grow the economy than the education of US citizens," she said.

Pelosi also called on congress to modernise a research and development tax credit that was extended when president George Bush signed a tax bill into law.

She criticised Republicans for running up a projected $2.3trillion government budget deficit and the Bush administration for opposing new stem cell research, saying the policy was part of Bush's "antiscience agenda".

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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