Updated later January 14
The White House said yesterday that President Obama will announce a range of broadband initiatives – including a plan to revamp the USDA’s broadband loan program — in a speech in Cedar Falls, Iowa this afternoon. Among other things, Obama also will ask the FCC to “address barriers” to the deployment of municipal broadband networks.
In a fact sheet shared with reporters, the White House noted that laws in 19 states — “some specifically written by special interests trying to stifle new competitors” – have held back broadband deployment and as a result have stifled economic opportunity. To address this, the White House said, Obama is “formally opposing measures that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks.” Asking the FCC to step in is a “first step” in Obama’s opposition, the White House said.
A related new initiative, also on Obama’s agenda for today’s speech, comes from the Department of Commerce. The initiative, known as BroadbandUSA, aims to “promote broadband deployment and adoption” by offering online and in-person technical assistance to communities. Additionally BroadbandUSA will include a series of workshops around the country and will publish guides and tools advising communities on “proven solutions” to broadband planning, financing, construction and operational problems.
Details about what the broadband loan revamp would entail were not provided, but a USDA official told Telecompetitor that information would be forthcoming.
Obama Broadband Plans Include Red Tape Cutting
Another important element of Obama’s broadband plans is the establishment of a Broadband Opportunity Council aimed at removing unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition. The council will involve more than a dozen government agencies with the “singular goal” of speeding up broadband deployment and adoption, the White House said.
Finally, the White House plans to host a Community Broadband Summit in June 2015 aimed at recognizing individuals and partnerships that have resulted from various broadband coalitions, including:
- The Next Century Cities coalition that aims to bring community-supported broadband to local municipalities
- The Gig.U initiative to bring gigabit service to university communities
- The US Ignite initiative that aims to help develop applications for high-speed broadband service
Update: An archive of President Obama’s address about his broadband plans is available on the White House website and his speech can be viewed here.