President Obama wants to spend $10.7 billion on a high-speed, wireless public-safety network that would allow first responders and healthcare professionals to transmit data, images and video during emergency situations as part of an $18 billion plan to bring wireless broadband access to 98 percent of America over the next five years.
This “Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative,” as the White House dubs it, encompasses the wireless-enabled video chats between patients and doctors that Obama referenced during his State of the Union address last month. The program also includes $3 billion to support development of strategies to harness the mobile Internet for health, education and energy-related applications.
The administration would fund the initiative by auctioning a portion of the wireless spectrum currently used by TV stations and government agencies. The White House says the auction would raise $27.8 billion, leaving a surplus of nearly $10 million to help reduce the federal deficit.
Speaking last week at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., part of the rather remote, mostly rural Upper Peninsula, Obama compared the effort to previous presidents’ large-scale connectivity plans. He cited Abraham Lincoln’s call for a transcontinental railroad, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the Rural Electrification Administration and President Dwight Eisenhower’s support for the Interstate Highway System.
“For our families and our businesses, high-speed wireless service, that’s the next train station; it’s the next off-ramp. It’s how we’ll spark new innovation, new investment, new jobs,” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. He also lauded Northern Michigan University and Marquette for building a WiMax network to provide high-speed Internet service to students who could not get broadband in off-campus housing.
“Now, if you can do this in [the] snowy U.P.,” Obama said, “we can do it all across America. In fact, many places already are. So in Wagner, S.D., patients can receive high-quality, lifesaving medical care from a Sioux Falls specialist who can monitor their EKG and listen to their breathing—from 100 miles away.” Keep reading>>