President Obama didn’t mention wireless in his speech about the proposed American Jobs Act last night. But a fact sheet about the act issued by the White House yesterday indicates that the president is calling for “a deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98% of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation and creating a nationwide interoperable wireless network for public safety.”
If that sounds familiar, that’s because the proposal builds on what the president proposed back in February in his National Wireless Initiative. The American Jobs Act fact sheet even references the same nomenclature in a summary included in the fact sheet.
But although there are many similarities, there are also some key differences between what the president proposed earlier this year and what he is proposing now.
The National Wireless Initiative, according to the fact sheet issued yesterday, has a “gross cost of $10 billion, but a net deficit reducing impact of $18 billion because of spectrum auction proceeds.” That suggests spectrum auctions will raise $28 billion—a number identical to what the president said he hoped to raise back in February.
But the original wireless proposal issued earlier this year only proposed to decrease the deficit by $9.6 billion. The remaining $18 billion would have been allocated as follows:
- $10 billion for a nationwide public safety network
- $5 billion for the Universal Service wireless mobility fund
- $3 billion for research and development
Based on the American Jobs Act fact sheet, the president is no longer talking about money for R&D.
But he is still talking about a nationwide public safety network and about getting broadband to 98% of rural Americans—a goal he also noted in February and which he apparently hoped to achieve with the $5 billion for the Universal Service wireless mobility fund.
What isn’t clear is how he hopes to achieve both of those goals with only $10 billion in total to support them.