Obama Tech Adviser Says More to Come on Broadband Push
A tech adviser to President Obama said today that $7.2 billion in stimulus funds to bring broadband lines to rural areas is just the start of the administration's plan to bring high-speed Internet to the entire nation.
Alec Ross, a member of Obama's Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Team, said at the Mobile Learning Conference in Washington that the new administration has called on the Federal Communications Commission to create within one year a comprehensive strategy for broadband Internet.
The stimulus "is not the puzzle but just a piece of the puzzle," Ross said.
Obama has promised to bring broadband Internet access to remote areas that aren't connected to the Web today. It is part of his strategy to create jobs and bring "21st century" economies to rural and low-income areas.
Yet to understand Obama's vision for technology, one need not look beyond broadband policy, Ross said. The president sees access to the Web as as a key component of modernizing healthcare records, reforming education, and helping reduce global warming.
About $19 billion in stimulus funds will go to health information technology, which would digitize medical records, for example.
"Clearly we're talking about an administration that sees health info-technology not as a vertical issue," Ross said.
Ross, a co-founder of non-profit OneEconomy.com, which brings technology to low-income areas, was echoing comments made earlier in the week by another technology adviser to Obama, Blair Levin. The administration is trying to stem concerns that the $7.2 billion stimulus funds allotted for broadband won't be enough to reverse the nation's decline in international rankings for broadband access. The U.S. ranks about 16th in access to high-speed Internet.
Instead of drawing up a program from scratch, the administration wanted to use existing programs at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education to fund the deployment of high-speed networks to rural and other underserved areas.
Some public interest groups, however, have questioned whether having multiple agencies oversee broadband will create inefficiencies.
February 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
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