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Obama goal: 98% of U.S. covered by 4G broadband

Grant Gross | Feb. 10, 2011
Ninety-eight percent of U.S. residents would have access to high-speed mobile broadband service within five years under a plan that President Barack Obama detailed Thursday.

Obama was scheduled to talk more about the mobile broadband goals Thursday afternoon at Northern Michigan University.

Several groups focused on improving broadband praised the president's plan.

"As many have observed, wireless Internet access is the wave of the future and a source of jobs and innovation," Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said in an e-mail. "The investments promoted by the administration would, if implemented, go a long way to bringing next generation wireless service to areas which may not receive it any other way."

Feld, however, questioned the administration's estimates of revenue from spectrum auctions. The proposed incentive auctions do not yet have approval from Congress.

"It is not at all clear that incentive auctions or reverse auctions will take place," he said. "Even under circumstances of familiar auction procedures, estimates of revenue can [vary] greatly from what is actually achieved. Important spending for our future should not depend on the vagaries of auctions."

Free Press, another supporter of broadband improvements, questioned whether the auctions would supply spectrum to the small number of current mobile providers. Obama's plan focuses on the wrong goal, Free Press Research Director Derek Turner wrote in a Politico opinion piece Thursday.

Instead of focusing on mobile broadband deployment, when nearly all U.S. residents have mobile service available now, Obama should focus on improving broadband adoption and providing competition to the large mobile and broadband providers, Turner wrote.

This week, the FCC released a proposal to fund broadband deployment by redirecting billions of dollars from a fund that now subsidizes traditional telephone service.

"The president's message Thursday, coming on the heels of this costly proposal, highlights a disconnect in our policy thinking," Turner wrote. "Why should taxpayers fund the build-out of broadband networks, when the government could just require that profitable wireless companies pay for it -- in exchange for use of public airwaves?"

 

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