white houseUpdated 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.

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4 thoughts on “Obama Broadband Plans Include USDA Loan Program Revamp, Community Broadband Support

  1. Sure he is, he's a community organizer who would rather have government own and control everything than private enterprise. The real question is why? Why should more taxpayer dollars be spent to prop-up broadband infrastructure that is expanding quite nicely with private investment, and distribution of fees already collected by state and municipal regulators? Seems that most communities already take a 4 – 6% franchise fee from cable operators. Now, if they'd only earmark that for broadband development versus the general budget for pensions and benefits, broadband could be even more sophisticated in local communities. The President doesn't know or see a tax he doesn't like, nor do most municipalities. Consumers already pay handsomely for broadband access., and shell-out franchise fees or other education and rural access fees (taxes). The government doesn't need to give municipalities the power to tax even more or nationalize your phone and cable companies like they've done in Venezuela. let's stop municipal operators before they can place a lien on your home for not paying your broadband bill because the service was down.

    1. I'm no fan of the president, but come on Jon are you really going to tell us that you have more than 2 choices for broadband in your community? Look at what the competition has done in Kansas City. I am also leary of government, but the broadband industry is broken and we need solutions. EPB in Chatanooga is paying for itself; yes some municipal broadband does not work and we need to be very careful, but letting comcast and at&t write state laws is worse. I'm a free market conservative, but monopolies don't innovate.

  2. Somewhere I read that the estimated cost for the President's plan is about $55 Billion. I've got a cheaper, better way.

    Right now, universal service, as created in the 1930s, is a myth. I say that because there isn't enough Universal Service Funding to deploy broadband (via the existing landline network) in the US. The FCC has in essence outlawed universal service by capping the USF funding at $2 Billion – thus making companies hesitant to deploy fiber. But $2B is a far cry from $55B. Take a quarter of the $55B and see how far that takes us. I guarantee you'll be amazed.

    Side note: The small rural town of 1500 that I live in has 100Mbps speeds because the local telco deployed fiber the last few years to all of their customers. They could provide Gig speeds if needed, but they have no requests. Why should they offer a Gig if no one wants it?

    On the other hand, the Prez has a point. After he gives us free Gig broadband, then I want free gas, free food, free cars, free medical – oh wait. That's working good, right? Seriously, if he's willing to assist local governments in competing with the private sector with broadband, why not gas stations or other private sectors? It could be a very slippery slope.

  3. I too live in a small rural community. Service provider is TDS Telecom. Now that they have milked the Federal Grant cow for quite a few $million dollars, they are pulling up stakes and leaving communities like mine with totally crap twisted copper pair systems –

    Your basic corporate business plan at work. Any community that doesn't understand the value of having one Gig, I definitely don't want to visit.

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