President Launches National Wireless Initiative and Meets Broadband Innovators

President Obama wants nearly all Americans to have access to high-speed wireless Internet services within five years. He announced this goal today during the launch of his National Wireless Initiative at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, a city chosen because it has developed a wireless network worth emulating in other rural areas across the nation.

For Connected Nation, this announcement is especially important. Since late 2009, Connect Michigan, one of our state-based programs, has been working with the federal, state, and local governments as well as state providers, community anchor institutions, and individual citizens to create a comprehensive broadband road map and promote opportunities to expand broadband.

Yesterday, Connect Michigan released its latest business study showing that Michigan businesses with high-speed Internet connections report having median annual revenues $200,000 more than businesses without broadband.

The administration’s position is that wireless broadband connections provide the ability to not only transform local economies, but to significantly and positively impact the way citizens are educated, obtain healthcare, and secure quality-of-life necessities.

The President proposed to invest $18 billion into the inititive, with funds that would be raised from wireless spectrum auctions. $5 billion would be provided to the FCC to invest in wireless infrastructure such as towers and backhaul facilities in communities that would not have advanced wireless broadband service. Fire, police, and other emergency responders would get $10.7 billion in federal support to build a mobile Internet network that facilitates communications, video exchange, and e-mail. An additional $3 billion would be used on research and development for wireless technologies that can be used for education, healthcare, and energy.

The administration anticipates funding the program from the successful auction of 500 MHZ of wireless spectrum, estimated to net approximately $27.8 billion over the next decade.

The President met briefly with local business owners who have used broadband access to grow their businesses and technology executives including:

Rocky and Carol Getz, Owners, Getz’s Clotherier – A traditional clothing business that expanded with an e-commerce site (Internet sales make up 65% of new revenue) and was on Inc. Magazine’s 2009 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately owned companies in America.

Chaig Matteson, Chairman, and Richard Anderson, Managing Director, V.I.O Inc. – V.I.O Inc., an electronics company for outdoor enthusiasts, was started by a local entrepreneur and is now selling in more than 60 countries online.

Aicha Evans, CTO, Intel – As general manager of Intel’s WiMAX division, was directly involved in the wireless network that is featured at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

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