President signs order to streamline broadband construction
Saying "we can't wait," President Obama signed an executive order last week aimed at making broadband (high-speed internet service) construction faster and cheaper.
The president's order makes broadband construction along federal roadways and properties up to 90 percent cheaper and more efficient.
The order will make the federal government streamline procedures to allow broadband construction along federal properties. Currently, the procedures for approving broadband infrastructure projects on properties controlled or managed by the federal government vary depending on which agency manages the property.
These properties include large tracts of land, roadways and more than 10,000 buildings across the country.
"Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work," the president said in signing the order. "By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed and our citizens become more engaged."
The executive order (signed June 14) ensures that the many different agencies that manage federal properties will take specific steps in adopting a uniform approach for allowing broadband carriers to build networks on and through those properties, resulting in greater connectivity for communities, businesses and schools.
Reaction from one farm group was positive. The National Grange, a non-profit, non-partisan fraternal organization - the nation's oldest agricultural and rural community service organization - praised the decision to make broadband expansion cheaper and faster in rural areas.
"The National Grange believes, just like President Obama, that rural Americans cannot wait for broadband access, and is thrilled to hear this president has made such access a priority," National Grange President Ed Luttrell said.
"America's farmers and ranchers need broadband services to stay connected and competitive in today's digital era," Luttrell added. "Having access to the same services and privileges as our urban counterparts will drastically change the way rural America does business."
Established in 1867, The National Grange has more than 2,100 local chapters and aims to be a rural advocacy organization and a major benefactor to local communities.
The executive order will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Postal Service to offer an easier approach to broadband carriers for leasing federal assets to expand their broadband infrastructure and services.
The federal working group will also include the Department of Homeland Security.
Some computer experts grumbled that the president's executive order didn't do anything to address the slow and expensive process of "last-mile" connectivity that is a problem for so many rural residents. Instead, they said, this initiative focuses on improvements between universities and cities, where high-speed internet is already taken for granted.
NEW PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
The White House also announced a 100-partner broadband initiative dubbed "US Ignite."
The new partnership includes more than 25 cities, corporations and non-profit groups and 60 research universities and is aimed at creating a wave of services that take advantage of networks running up to 100 times faster than today's internet.
The U.S. Ignite partnership will create a nationwide network of communities and campuses with programmable broadband service.
The White House hopes the networks created by this new public-private partnership will help develop the next generation of broadband services.
By bringing software developers and engineers from government and industry together with representatives from communities, schools, hospitals and other institutions that will benefit from faster and more agile broadband options, the partnership aims to speed up and increase the development of applications for advanced manufacturing, medical monitoring, emergency preparedness, and a host of other services.
The White House said these ultra-fast experimental networks have the potential to transform health care, education and job skills training along with advanced manufacturing.
The partnership was created to "improve services to Americans and drive job creation, promote innovation, and create new markets for American businesses," the president said.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said "this is a big deal."
"Broadband is reshaping our economy and our lives more profoundly than any new technology since electricity," he said. "Broadband has enormous potential to help advance national goals around education, energy, public safety and health care."