Obama: Wireless plan expands access

Feb. 10, 2011 at 3:40 PM
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MARQUETTE, Mich., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- To succeed in the 21st century, America cannot rely on yesterday's infrastructure, President Obama said Thursday when revealing a national wireless initiative.

"So if we want new jobs and businesses in America, we have to have the best transportation and communication networks in the world," Obama told an audience at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich. "Just like the movie "Field of Dreams," -- 'If we build it, they will come.'"

"It" includes repairing America's crumbling roads and bridges, providing high-speed rail access to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years and making it possible "for businesses to put high-speed wireless services in reach of virtually every American," the president said.

"For our families and businesses, high-speed wireless service is the next train station, the next off-ramp," Obama said. "It's how we'll spark new innovation, new investments and new jobs."

He praised Northern Michigan's partnering with several companies to build a high-speed, next-generation wireless network to become "one of America's most connected universities."

The university's online work allowed neighboring communities and school districts, because they allowed the university to retrofit communications towers, to expand their services and businesses to grow their customers worldwide, Obama said.

"We want to invest in the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage for 98 percent of Americans," Obama said. "This isn't just about a faster Internet or being able to friend someone on Facebook. It's about connecting every corner of America to the digital age."

To push the United States to become a wired nation, the administration would invest in research and development of emerging technologies and applications, Obama said.

"We'll accelerate breakthroughs in health, education, and transportation, and deploy a new nationwide, interoperable wireless network for first responders," he explained. "And by selling private companies the rights to these airwaves, we won't just encourage private investment and expand wireless access; we'll actually bring in revenues that lower our deficits" by about $1 billion a year.

The initiative would permit the auction of a portion of the airwaves now used by TV broadcasters to wireless companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, White House officials said. Broadcasters would be paid an incentive fee to give up 500 megahertz of the spectrum to allow for vast numbers of smartphones and tablet computers expected to reach consumers' hands. Public safety emergency responders would get 10 megahertz to create a wireless mobile broadband network so fire, police and medical crews can communicate.

All Americans deserve access to the information from around the world, Obama told the audience, and every American deserves access to a global economy.

"We have promised this for fifteen years," the president said. "It is time we delivered on that promise."

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