Next on Obama’s Bucket List—Fix Broadband
Policy + Politics

Next on Obama’s Bucket List—Fix Broadband

By the time President Obama actually delivers his State of the Union message next Tuesday, it might as well be a rerun – because most of America will have already read the script.

In another of what the White House has called State of the Union “spoilers,” President Obama on Wednesday announced a series of proposals meant to support cities and towns that develop community broadband service and to eliminate barriers to competition in the provision of connectivity.

Related: White House Rolls Out State of the Union ‘Spoilers’

He traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa to deliver his remarks, casting access to fast and affordable broadband Internet access as a matter of economic necessity. The city of 40,000 is significant because, like a number of other municipalities in the U.S., it enjoys broadband connectivity some 100 times faster than what is available in most U.S. markets.

In a video released in advance of his remarks, the president, using an iPad in the Oval Office, said most Americans can sympathize with the frustration of slow download speeds, but said in many cases it’s more than an aggravation.

“That may mean money if you are trying to do a business deal,” he said. “You may lose a customer if they are not able to see you respond quickly. If you’re a student and you are trying to study for an exam and you’re supposed to download some information and it doesn’t come, that’s a problem for you. There are real world consequences to this and it makes us less economically competitive.”

Among the proposals Obama was expected to release later Wednesday is an effort to roll back laws on the books in 19 states that, the administration claims, inhibit competition in the market for broadband Internet connectivity. The administration will file a request with the independent Federal Communications Commission encouraging the FCC to support the move.

Related: Obama to Ease Mortgage Rates for 800,000 Low-Income Households

The administration will establish the so-called Broadband Opportunity Council, an interagency committee charged with eliminating unnecessary and burdensome regulation specific to the provision of broadband Internet.

The president said the White House will also offer support to the Next Century Cities coalition, which is made up of 50 municipalities and more than three dozen universities that aim to deliver high-speed public broadband to their communities.

Interestingly, on a day that the House GOP took Obama to task for his use of executive orders after saying numerous times he wouldn’t act unilaterally, Obama did not even mention Congress in the video released on the White House website. The president pledged instead to take the steps available to him through executive action to loosen restrictions on competition and to offer support to communities attempting to travel the same path as Cedar Falls.

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