Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Obama pushes for rural broadband, override of state laws keeping local governments out of it

Today President Obama is in Cedar Falls, Iowa—which has its own cable and high-speed data networks—where he is expected to pitch the need for greater high-speed Internet access in rural and underserved areas, Philip Brasher reports for Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter.

Jeff Zients, director of the White House's National Economic Council, told Brasher, “Every American should have options for better, faster broadband. In the 1930s, many argued that electricity was a luxury, something too costly to bring to rural communities and every American. … We're at a similar moment today.”

In conjunction with Obama's push for greater broadband access, the U.S. Department of Agriculture "will announce that it's accepting applications to its Community Connect broadband grant program and reopening a restructured loan program authorized under the 2014 farm bill," Brasher writes. "About $40 million to $50 million in loans are to be made available through the program."

Obama is expected to ask the Federal Communications Commission "to pre-empt state laws that restrict communities’ ability to expand high-speed Internet access to underserved areas," Julie Hirschfield Davis reports for The New York Times. "The president’s push to remove the roadblocks to Internet competition is likely to face resistance from large telecommunications companies, said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance."

Currently, 19 states have laws that restrict cities’ ability to provide broadband coverage, Davis writes. Mitchell told her, “The telecom companies have spent millions of dollars in state legislatures to promote these limits, and anything that’s pro-competition from the administration is very upsetting to them.” Mitchell said "eliminating the barriers and allowing cities to set up their own networks would be an 'important first step' in generating competition that would widely expand broadband access." (Read more)

No comments: