Obama: "Connecting Every Corner of America to the Digital Age"

During an address at Northern Michigan University in Marquette on Thursday afternoon, President Barack Obama said the US will spend $5 billion to build next-generation high-speed wireless networks in rural areas, and create incentives to free up more radio frequencies for mobile broadband. According to Obama (who is shown below using his BlackBerry), "It's how we'll spark new innovation, new investment, new jobs ... We can't expect tomorrow's economy to take root using yesterday's infrastructure."

Obama compared expanding wireless networks to building highways, railroads, and expanding electricity across the country in earlier decades. Right now, just 65 percent of US homes have broadband internet service. "When it comes to high-speed internet, the lights are still off in one-third of our households.", he said. Expanding broadband internet will give people in rural areas easier access to information, and opportunities outside their hometowns.

In his state of the union speech, Obama committed 4G high-speed wireless services available to at least 98 per cent of Americans within five years.

Details include:

  • A goal to free up 500 MHz of radio spectrum, mainly for mobile broadband. Obama proposes financial incentives to encourage companies and government agencies to release some of their spectrum they hold so it can be auctioned off for this purpose.
  • A one-time $5-billion investment in the construction of 4G networks in rural areas. Obama noted that private companies don't expand there on their own because it isn't profitable.
  • A $3-billion fund to support research, testing and development of "key technological developments" to enable and take advantage of the 4G rollout.
  • $10.7 billion to develop and deploy a nationwide interoperable wireless network for public safety and emergency services.
  • Using $27.8 billion raised from the proposed auctions of government and commercial spectrum to cut the national deficit by $9.6 billion over the next decade.
  • [via CBC News]