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Posted at 1:40 PM ET, 02/10/2011

President Obama pitches $18 billion wireless broadband plan

By Cecilia Kang

MARQUETTE, Mich. — In this remote snow-swept college town rejuvenated in parts by Internet commerce, President Obama on Thursday outlined a plan to create similar economic stories through the expansion of super-fast wireless Internet connections.

Speaking at Northern Michigan University, Obama unveiled an ambitious blueprint to use $18 billion in federal funds to get 98 percent of the nation connected to the Internet on smartphones and tablet computers in five years.

To get there, the federal government will try to bring more radiowaves into the hands of wireless carriers to bolster the nation’s networks and prevent a jam of Internet traffic. He said he hoped to auction airwaves currently in the hands of television stations and government agencies to raise about $27.8 billion.

And with the money raised, the government would fund new rural 4G wireless networks and a mobile communications system for fire, policy and emergency responders. The remaining funds raised — about $10 billion — would go toward lowering the federal deficit over the next decade.

First outlined in his State of the Union speech, the plan is part of a push to reshape the nation’s infrastructure of deteriorating roadways and manufacturing plants into one with high-speed railways and high-speed Internet networks the president said are essential to compete globally in years ahead.

“To attract the best jobs and newest industries, we’ve got to out-innovate, out-educate, out-build and out-hustle the rest of the world," Obama said in his speech.

The plan is ambitious and complicated and relies heavily on the participation of cautious television broadcasters who are loath to easily give up their greatest asset — spectrum, experts say.

Specifically, $10.7 billion would go toward building an interoperable public safety network so first responders can communicate, send video files and e-mails during disasters and national security threats.

The administration also plans a one-time allotment of $5 billion from a federal phone subsidy to be used for wireless broadband expansion in rural areas. About $3 billion would go to a government research and development program for ways to use mobile Internet access for emerging technologies and applications in health, education and energy.

Its estimates don't include how much money it would return to broadcasters who give up airwaves in voluntary "incentive auctions." Those television broadcasters will get a cut of the proceeds, the administration has promised though it hasn't offered more details.

But broadcasters want more guarantees auctions will be voluntary and they are searching for details on how much they would receive from the auctions.

Those details, however, are crucial for broadcasters, said Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

"We aren't against the plan but want to make sure this is truly voluntary, and we want to hold harmless those who don't want to participate," Smith said.

They are sitting on what is considered beachfront spectrum that is ideal for powerful Internet connections from a flood of Droids, iPhones and Xoom tablets hitting the market.

"It is not at all clear that incentive auctions will take place," Gigi Sohn, president of the public interest group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. She praised the federal attention to mobile broadband technology but said, "even under circumstances of familiar auction procedures, estimates of revenue can vary greatly from what is actually achieved."

Some lawmakers point to a questionable track record for federal programs to expand broadband connections.

As Obama toured Marquette’s Getz’s Clothiers, a retailer that has expanded its business on the Web thanks to broadband Internet for Marquette's population of 20,000, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on oversight of recent funding for broadband programs.

More than $7 billion in stimulus funds have been distributed to broadband grants in rural areas and lawmakers grilled recipients and government officials over economic gains from those grants.

“Before we target any more of our scarce taxpayer dollars for broadband, it is critical to examine whether the money already being spent is having an impact, as well as how we can minimize waste, fraud and abuse,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the energy and commerce committee.

Because the funds for new mobile broadband networks would come from auctions and not from the U.S. Treasury, it "has a better-than-even chance of happening," Paul Gallant, an analyst at investment firm MF Global said.

The White House said the funds won’t come out of taxpayer pockets, pointing to its expectations of auction proceeds.

Obama chose to visit Marquette because of the town's success in attracting commercial partners such as Intel to build a mobile broadband network based on WiMax technology on the university campus. Northern Michigan University partnered with towns nearby to expand cell towers so that elementary schools, police and residents could also access wireless networks fast enough to access streaming videos without a wireline connection.

"If you can do this in the snowy wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, we can do this all across America," Obama said.

By Cecilia Kang  | February 10, 2011; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

Not a good idea. Communication carriers should not be controlled by the government. This is a side run at a government kill switch.

Posted by: FreeTexan | February 10, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

It sounds okay, except that I wonder whether having all these signals everywhere is going to give more people cancer?? My guess would be that it will not, but it bothers me that this possibility exists.

Posted by: hermitage327 | February 10, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

...And, no doubt, will make it easier for Big Brother to listen to all your phone conversations, monitor your internet use, read your emails, etc. In addition, it will help provide them with an Off Switch, as was done recently in Egypt.

Posted by: scoutonymous | February 10, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"President Obama is set to announce his plan to bring wireless Internet to all parts of the country"
---------------------------------------
Obumbler must be unable to read. Wireless internet is ALREADY available nationwide.

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 10, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

ENOUGH with the spending already! Geez!

Posted by: bussliteyear | February 10, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Wireless Internet from Verizon.

This guy gave up smoking, what is he on to now????

We, in our Village of Phoenicia, NY do not even have Cell Phone service and Verizon has made it clear they will not operate the tower that was built several years ago. Not enough money to be made here & they will not even consider making cell phones operable , ever! So wireless internet. Another Tooth Fairy from the large group of Obama's fantacy to fool the public.

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 10, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again! "People who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it!" Is this President deaf and blind? We just had an election with overwhelming indications that the citizen voters do not want any more federal government expansions, nor do they want more spending programs, and no more taxes. This pres. is continuing "business as usual" with his liberal government expansion and spending. The "Internet" has been very productive, economically operated, and profitable by private industry. Now he wants the government to take over this private industry at the expense of taxpayers and business. This is madness! What model can he offer - the bankrupt US Postoffice? His compulsion to spend, expand, tax, and take over the private economy must stop. Lets keep our eyes on our Congressmen closely to stop these actions until Obama and his liberal croonies are booted out of office! Monty Weddell Dallas, TX

Posted by: moweddell | February 10, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

In no way, for any reason, should government be involved with private enterprize. ESPECIALLY, when free speech is involved. NO NO NO!! Obama, NO!!

Posted by: brnfream2 | February 10, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I think most commenters here don't understand the scope of this project. This article says nothing about government controlling communication carriers. A national first-responders network is a far different animal. The rest goes to access expansion programs and research. And it is effectively self-funding. I realize some of you have swallowed the conservative kool-aid, but you could present yourselves more credibly.

Posted by: drunken_spectator | February 10, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Those airwaves belong to the people, not the Government. Since when can the Government decide to just auction them off? As for assisting commerce in rural areas, how does the availability of 4G networks with high speed streaming video assist that? DSL speed is adequate for internet commerce. I have no problems with normal web surfing/online shopping with my 768K DSL. That could be accomplished at much less cost without giving up our TV signals, which are a lot more necessary in rural areas due to the lack of cable/wired networks. I doubt many (if any) rural TV stations would voluntarily give up their spectrum. High speed rail networks when we are already deep in debt and our current infrastructure is crumbling?? Our current president doesn't have a clue, and should go back to his Hyde Park Chicago ivory tower.

Posted by: alrob8 | February 10, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Those airwaves belong to the people, not the Government. Since when can the Government decide to just auction them off? As for assisting commerce in rural areas, how does the availability of 4G networks with high speed streaming video assist that? DSL speed is adequate for internet commerce. I have no problems with normal web surfing/online shopping with my 768K DSL. That could be accomplished at much less cost without giving up our TV signals, which are a lot more necessary in rural areas due to the lack of cable/wired networks. I doubt many (if any) rural TV stations would voluntarily give up their spectrum. High speed rail networks when we are already deep in debt and our current infrastructure is crumbling?? Our current president doesn't have a clue, and should go back to his Hyde Park Chicago ivory tower.

Posted by: alrob8 | February 10, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a Government takeover, more money spent, more government employees, more government employee unions, good paying jobs at tax payer expense and the enabling of more government intrusion into our personal lives.
Who needs the Patriot Act now? This will sidestep everything in the Patriot Act that you thought was intrusive.

Posted by: jhnjdy | February 10, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

My big concerns with this direction:
1. Wireless companies will be getting money from both sides, the customers and the government subsidies.
2. The currently underserved wireline customers will be ignored, forcing customers to rely on wireless for "broadband", which will be a fraction of the speed and reliability that wireline can provide.
3. It will be a huge spectrum fight with broadcasters. They just spent a boatload of money converting to digital transmitters, often in UHF spectrum. Now the government wants them to replace all of that transmission gear and move to VHF. And share their spectrum with other local broadcasters, thus reducing bandwidth. Local broadcasters are already feeling serious hurt from the local decline in advertising dollars, and higher competition for viewers. What is their incentive to roll over and play nice?

Posted by: mobilemail1 | February 10, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

The Great Oboob is worse than the Energizer bunny..he just keeps spending and spending and spending..and taking over and taking over and taking over, anything he can get his grubby little hands on. Somebody has got to stop this guy..

As for his plan to raise ~$28 billion by auctioning airwaves, my guess is he's going to soon find out they aren't worth nearly that much. I would be surprised if he got 50% of that figure. But since his sole expertise is in community organizing and law teaching (NOT! as a "professor," as he falsely stated on his resume'), he knows exactly zero about free-market forces. He doesn't understand that just because he sets an exhorbitant price for something doesn't mean anyone will actually pay it. My bet is the current crop of broadband providers have already figured out how to steal his socks and are preparing to take him to the cleaners. Oh well, Odumbo, when you play with fire, you can get burned. Chalk it up as lesson-learned.

Posted by: flintston | February 10, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

illogicbuster wrote: "Obumbler must be unable to read. Wireless internet is ALREADY available nationwide." Really? What report shows nationwide coverage for every single home in this country? I'd like to see that.

Wait another person that was trying to criticize Obama's plan contradicts your claim.

Loonybin2000 wrote "We, in our Village of Phoenicia, NY do not even have Cell Phone service and Verizon has made it clear they will not operate the tower that was built several years ago. Not enough money to be made here & they will not even consider making cell phones operable , ever!"

Which is exactly why the government needs to be involved in this. Our country is far behind many of the industrialized countries in the world. I work in many different school distrits providing staff development. It get's disheartening after awhile when just yesterday, I had a teach tell me that they can't do any of the stuff I was showing them at home. You see, in the small village where they live, they can only get dial-up access to the internet. So for them, showing them iTunes U as a great place to find FREE educational material that they could use in their classroom, was almost pointless. Many educators do that sort of prep work at home after their own kids are in bed. They don't want to be in the school until 6 or 7 at night.

Do any of you critics remember dial-up? Where a 4 minute piece of audio took a half hour to download? What about the student who needs to do some research for a project? On Dial-up? Really? Not having access to high speed internet should be considered an outrage as it can severely limit education and even employment opportunities.

Back in the early part of the 19th century our government did a similar thing for something that was felt to be a game changer. The Telephone. Now, we need to do the same thing with the internet.

And for all the nay sayers . .I suggest you look at what our neighbor to the south is doing with the e-Mexico Project. Really? We want to fall behind Mexico over the next few years? Really?

Posted by: NYTony | February 10, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

This is a want not a need and taxpayers should not have to pay for it. Instead Obama should be cutting ALL spending on wants and reducing all spending on wants. Most wasteful president ever.

Posted by: JakeLockley | February 10, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

where is Oblahbla getting the money from? what program is he taking it from? how does he pay for it? You would think that boy would get some common sense

Posted by: zzapperz | February 10, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Who’s trying to save/create jobs again?

Obama: Let’s save these automaker jobs…
GOP: Hell no!
Obama: Let’s fix the roads and build some stuff to replace the ancient stuff we have now. That’ll put some people to work.
GOP: Hell no!
Obama: Let’s start a whole new market to green up America. That way we can create jobs and compete worldwide with the Chinese for work instead of falling farther behind.
GOP: Hell no!
Obama: Let’s build high speed rail. That’ll revolutionize travel and create a whole (expletive)pot full of jobs!
GOP: Hell NO!
Obama: Let’s do nationwide broadband, let’s invest in technology, let’s educate…
GOP: HELL NO!


The Republicans: Looking out for you by making sure nothing good ever happens, even if it was our idea to begin with. Then we blame the Democrats.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | February 10, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"The White House said the funds won’t come out of taxpayer pockets, pointing to its expectations of auction proceeds."

Stop whining about government spending our money and RE-read the article!!! These auctions take place all the time Obama is just trying to give the carriers more money to upgrade their networks.

And.... The government will not be in charge of the network ! Do you people just see the word "spending" and freak out ?!? Stop being such scardy cats and read through the article again!

Let Obama do something good ... And RELAX !

Posted by: Timujin99 | February 10, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Those airwaves belong to the people, not the Government"

Supposedly the people are the government. However I don't think Obama believes in this concept. According to him we are just a bunch of know nothings clinging to our guns and Bibles.

Posted by: g30rg3544 | February 10, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday it was a unneeded rail line (right now AMTRAK can't survive without government aid) that will NEVER pass the house. Now Obama tries another silly waste of money with billions to wireless broadband plan. Thankfully, th eGOP in th eHOuse will laugh at this and immediately remove it from the budget.

Posted by: Realist201 | February 10, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

This is another case where the Federal Government wants to control the Nation. The states were to govern the population of their state. The Government was never intended to have any sort of control over the people. This is unconstitutional. Have the States provide WIFI, not the Federal Government. I would much rather see the Feds focus more on closing our borders, and getting our boys home. All of them. Lets get our nose of everyone's business and focus on our own. Bring our jobs home and outlaw outsourcing.

Posted by: BstnBrahmin | February 10, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

OK well that makes a lot of sesne

www.anonymize.edu.tc

Posted by: clermontpc | February 10, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Whatever the real prospects for the President's initiatives are, it is hard to argue against the value of trying to find more bandwidth for wireless internet connections. But I will be very unhappy if I lose the ability to receive the OTA HD television signals that I have become accustomed to after struggling with the last big FCC transition.

Posted by: dnjake | February 10, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

If it was critical, they could have gotten satellite wifi Obama thinks everything is critical, he cant separate anything in his head.. mindless dolt that he is

Posted by: zzapperz | February 10, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

RE: AMTRAK

Richard Nixon signed legislation REQUIRING government subsidization of AMTRAK (danged LIBERAL!).

Ask the airlines to build all their own infrastructure (as AMTRAK is asked to do) and see how long they stay solvent. Since I know you can be bothered to look, I'll tell you the number of airports built by airlines: It's zero.

Do three minutes of research before you shoot your mouth off trying to smear people and things that your entire sum knowledge of is summed up in the phrase, "the GOP don't like it."

This is why people say GOP-supporters are easily-manipulated boneheads.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | February 10, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight: Obama wants the taxpayers to pony up $18 BILLION dollars, to build infrastructure for companies like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, who will then make profits without having to make ANY investment?

This is not my America, not any more.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | February 10, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight: Obama wants the taxpayers to pony up $18 BILLION dollars, to build infrastructure for companies like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, who will then make profits without having to make ANY investment?

This is not my America, not any more.

Posted by: thomasmc1957
-------------
Was it your America when 2 TRILLION dollars was spent to bomb Iraq to the stoneage? How about when Bush authorized more than $6 billion in yearly coal/oil subsidies?
Actually, your America probably disappeared when the government subsidized the electrical grid, the telephone, and the highway system.
Tax money gets spent on things you don't like. We all have to put up with that. That IS AMERICA. It's why we vote. Get used to it or get a one way ticket somewhere where they don't have annoying taxes. Although they will probably not have annoying things like running water or roads, so...

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | February 10, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: NYTony: "Really? What report shows nationwide coverage for every single home in this country? I'd like to see that.
few years? Really?"
-----------------------------------------
Gotta love libs. Predictably uneducated but, still in there voting in morons like Obumbler.

http://www.hughesnet.com/

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 10, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks goodness we didn't have to depend on all you spineless, paranoid individuals to fight for our independence, or tame the west, or survive the Great Depression, or build our first railways and freeways, or support public education, or have vision for all the great technologies and discoveries our great Americans have made. Hopefully, we still have more people with gumption to make it through these hard times and come out on top as we always have done than the ones that rather just throw in the towel when it gets tough.

Posted by: 45summer | February 10, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

If Obama is planning on funding government tax dollars for wireless internet, why should people who live in my village and pay tax dollars not be able to to have wireless internet when we cannot have cell phones. Verizon will not service this area and I object to having our tax dollars pay for services others can enjoy, and we cannot. The govt. must insist that we in Phoenicia, NY are as equal as all Americans and see to it we have cell phone and internet wireless service

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 10, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Will the government have control in deciding what can or cannot be broadcasted over wireless internet.

If there is no wireless service in a community will we still be able to use our internet system as we have it now?

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 10, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Will the government have control in deciding what can or cannot be broadcasted over wireless internet.

If there is no wireless service in a community will we still be able to use our internet system as we have it now?

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 10, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Sorry no money Obama. Like most of your "hot" ideas it's absolutely worthless. Let's see how much money can we spend in four short years? Thankfully the House won't approve this idea. Besides I don't want the govt controlling access to the internet.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 10, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight - Obama wants to confiscate wealth from one part of the country and redistribute it in the form of wireless in an area that wireless companies decided they can't make money...How stupid is that?! So when Obama says "investment" he really means "waste"...we are doomed.

Posted by: NO-bama | February 10, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a great idea. The problem we as a country face now is that the 700MHz spectrum that was previously the sole domain of television is now obsolete. America has gone digital.


But there is still tremendous intrinsic value in these holdings, as the 700MHz range "is ideal" for broadband, wi fi, and wi max. And knowing this fact some are betting on a "own and hold" strategy until the market will offer what they consider better terms. In and of itself not a bad idea from a profit maximization, capital accumulation stand point. One that if unchecked will reward billions upon billions more. I tip my hat to the attempt to make the best out of a situation from a busniess stand point, but it does a grave disservice to America. These magnates should take a lesson from Howard Hughes, not the Jay Goulds and Russel Sages of the gilded age.


Capitalism is a great force for good, as history has shown. But it can also be a great force for ill if left unchecked. Unrestrained unregulated capitalism is self defeating and holds back competition and innovation. Thats why we needed anti trust laws. Its why unions had to fight in thestreets for simple things we take for granted today, like a day or two off, and overtime, et al.


We need to race to the future and not let greed hold back innovation. Preventing the use of otherwise useless frequency ranges, sitting on it as if it were a piece of privat propert is unethical. The airwaves are not private property, they are owned by "we the people" and are a modality to communicate and trasfer information. A basic tenament of our democracy. we the people through the FCC sold right to "USE" those ranges, not to sit on them like a fat cat to enrich oneself further. Its tantamount to the rail road barons refusing to sell off holdings to private industry and local municipalities in the 1800's!


I cant argue with President Obama on this one. Id even urge him to sharpen his teeth and push this through harder. This is good for America.

Posted by: Homunculus | February 10, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"Obama: Let’s build high speed rail. That’ll revolutionize travel and create a whole (expletive)pot full of jobs!"

You do know that there is only ONE profitable high speed rail line in the ENTIRE WORLD, right?

Posted by: BradG | February 10, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Wishy-washy Obama can't seem to decide whether he's "for" our FreeMarket system or not!??
I think its a Bad idea for our government to control our communication system.... only a Dictator would want that!?
Obama's speech in Michigan was disturbing to me when he kept pounding on "the young people in Egypt want change".. Wait a Minute, I'm watching those crowds in Egypt and its Not Just the Young People who want
Mubara to step down, I see many, many dd Middle-Aged and Older People too!
Why can't Democrats make speeches without
demonizing or isolating one group or another? Its downright weird.
That's why Obama and Democrats "trouble" me!

Posted by: ohioan | February 11, 2011 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The TV broadcasters are lucky that they get anything from the auction of these frequencies. The frequencies belong to the people of the United States not the broadcasters. We simply allocated these frequencies to their use and they got rich because of this. What you image the chaos if anyone could broadcast on any frequency. TV broadcasting will likely go the way of AM radio soon, as most broadcasters ought to sell their frequencies for what they can get.
The urban areas have the most problems with frequency shortages and the least need for TV broadcasters to retain them. How many of us still get our TV programs over the airways? Not many. Its time that the people of the United States (reduced deficits maybe) get something back by auctioning off some of these frequencies to a higher and maybe better use.

Posted by: stockinger | February 11, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: NYTony: "Really? What report shows nationwide coverage for every single home in this country? I'd like to see that.
few years? Really?"
-----------------------------------------
Gotta love libs. Predictably uneducated but, still in there voting in morons like Obumbler.

http://www.hughesnet.com/

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 10, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Hey ilogic buster: Satelite internet is not fast enough or reliable enough. You cant stream video and weather knocks it out. Also it costs two to three times what hardwired DSL or cable costs per month. Plus it has daily and monthly limits that prevent using with video. Also theres many places you cant install it because of line of site to the satelite.
. Dont you crazy baggers look before you talk? SILLY QUESTION.

Posted by: jimbobkalina1 | February 14, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

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