Sunday, February 13, 2011

National Wireless Initiative

In a speech outlining his new National Wireless Initiative to expand wireless access and innovation, President Obama compared the effort aimed at connecting 98 percent of Americans to "next-generation, high-speed" wireless to past infrastructure projects such as building railroads and highways that also were aimed at advancing the nation's economy.

"This isn't just about a faster Internet or being able to find a friend on Facebook," Obama said during a speech at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich. "It's about connecting every corner of America to the digital age."

His National Wireless Initiative calls for generating funds from the auction of spectrum that would be provided by federal government users and through a proposal that would encourage broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum in exchange for a share of the proceeds from the auction of those airwaves.

In this White House White Board, Austan Goolsbee,
Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers,
explains the National Wireless Initiative.
Some of this funding would go to help build a national interoperable broadband network for public safety and to help provide wireless broadband in rural areas. The plan also contemplates that $9.6 billion would be left over for deficit reduction.

"Now, access to high-speed internet by itself won't make a business more successful, or a student smarter, or a citizen more informed. That takes hard work. It takes those late nights. It takes that quintessentially American drive to be the best," Obama said. "But we have always believed that we have a responsibility to guarantee all our people every tool necessary for them to meet their full potential."

President explained how this initiative will benefit rural America in his speech given in Marquette, Michigan:
For our families and our businesses, high-speed wireless service, that’s the next train station; it’s the next off-ramp. It’s how we’ll spark new innovation, new investment, new jobs.

And you know this here in Northern Michigan. That’s why I showed up, in addition to it being pretty and people being nice. For decades now, this university has given a new laptop to every incoming student. Wi-Fi stretched across campus. But if you lived off-campus, like most students and teachers here, you were largely out of luck. Broadband was often too expensive to afford. And if you lived a bit further out of town, you were completely out of luck, because broadband providers, they often won’t build networks where it’s not profitable, just like they wouldn’t build electrical lines where it wasn’t profitable.

So this university tried something new. You partnered with various companies to build a high-speed, next-generation wireless network. And you managed to install it with six people in only four days without raising tuition. Good job. Good job, Mr. President. By the way, if you give me the name of these six people there’s a whole bunch of stuff in Washington I’d like to see done in four days with six people.

So today, this is one of America’s most connected universities, and enrollment is near the highest it’s been in 30 years.

And what’s more -- and this is what makes this special -- you told nearby towns that if they allowed you to retrofit their towers with new equipment to expand your network, then their schools, their first responders, their city governments could use it too. And as a result, police officers can access crime databases in their cars. And firefighters can download blueprints on the way to a burning building. And public works officials can save money by monitoring pumps and equipment remotely.

And you’ve created new online learning opportunities for K-12 students as far as 30 miles away, some of whom some of whom can’t always make it to school in a place that averages 200 inches of snow a year.

Now, some of these students don’t appreciate the end of school [snow] days. I know Malia and Sasha get really excited about school [snow] days. Of course, in Washington things shut down when there’s an inch of snow. But this technology is giving them more opportunity. It’s good for their education, it’s good for our economy. In fact, I just came from a demonstration of online learning in action. We were with Professor Lubig and he had plugged in Negaunee High School and Powell Township School in Big Bay.

So I felt like the guy in Star Trek. I was being beamed around across the Upper Peninsula here. But it was remarkable to see the possibilities for these young people who are able to, let’s say, do a chemistry experiment, and they can compare the results with kids in Boston.

Or if there’s some learning tool or material they don’t have immediately accessible in their school, they can connect here to the university, and they’re able to tap into it.

It’s opening up an entire world to them. And one of the young people who I was talking to, he talked about foreign policy and what we were seeing in places like Egypt. And he said, what’s amazing especially for us is that now we have a window to the entire world, and we can start understanding other cultures and other places in ways that we could never do without this technology.
The initiative to extend high speed internet connectivity to the entire nation will also stimulate job growth and thereby, the economy.

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