February 10th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In his State of the Union address, President Obama said the path to "winning the future" must include better access to hi-speed internet.
"Within the next five years, we'll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans," Obama said. "This isn't about faster internet or fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."
President Obama is taking that message on the road Thursday. Traveling to Michigan's chilly Upper Peninsula to showcase one rural area that has already harnessed long-range wireless technology and the benefits it has offered the local schools, university and businesses. Marquette has a population of about 20,700 residents, is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior and is home to Northern Michigan University, where President Obama will be speaking.
According to the White House, "the next generation wireless network in Marquette is an effective demonstration of how the president's proposal to open up airwaves will spark new innovation, put people back to work, grow the economy and help America win the future."
The president's proposal calls for a $5 billion investment to expand wireless access to rural communities, a $10.7 billion investment to help deploy a nationwide wireless public safety network intended to improve first responder communications in an emergency and $3 billion for a Wireless Innovation Fund supporting research and experimentation utilizing 4G technologies.
At a time when budget cuts and the debt ceiling are on the top of most every lawmaker's mind, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Jason Furman is quick to point out they project the initiative will actually reduce the deficit by $9.6 billion over ten years. Furman calls it a "win, win, win."
"We can reduce our deficit, we can expand our wireless access. We can expand our public safety," said Furman in a conference call with reporters.
To accomplish that, President Obama has set a goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum through a voluntary incentive auction for licensed mobile broadband, which is basically what today's smartphones, BlackBerry devices and iPhones require to communicate. The White House projects this auction will create $27.8 billion in revenue. A portion of that revenue would then go toward the president's wireless initiatives.
Furman emphasized this initiative is an essential part of the "build" aspect of Obama's vision laid out in the State of the Union.
"We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," said President Obama during his January address. "It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a hand-held device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor."