WASHINGTON, February 10, 2011 - President Obama drew comparisons between high-speed Internet, the railroads and the electric grid during a speech in Marquette, Michigan on Thursday afternoon, commenting on their essential nature to the economy and calling for a renewed investment in broadband infrastructure.
The administration’s Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative (WIII) comes on the heels of the President's State of the Union address last month, during which he pledged to facilitate high-speed wireless networks that reach 98 percent of Americans. The program also aims to free up radio spectrum to alleviate an impending spectrum crunch, create a nationwide interoperable wireless network for public safety and drive innovation in the wireless broadband sector.
"When it comes to high-speed internet, the lights are still off in one-third of our households," Obama said in his address at Northern Michigan University, referring to the 35 percent of Americans who do not have broadband Internet connections in their homes. "For millions of Americans, the railway hasn’t come yet."
The President highlighted the successes the remote town on the northern shores of Michigan's upper peninsula, 300 miles outside of Milwaukee, has had developing industry as a result of its high-speed wireless network. That network, developed by Northern Michigan University in cooperation with private companies, provides access to local public safety, schools and government as well as the public.
In one instance, Getz's, a 100-year-old family-owned clothier recently became one of the nation's 5,000 fastest growing companies as a result of bringing its business online. In another, the network provides distance learning opportunities for K-12 up to 30 miles away in a region that receives 200 inches of snow annually.
Obama used the successes of the town as indicative of the impact ubiquitous Internet access could have on the recovering American economy and reestablishing competitiveness abroad.
"We do big things. That’s who we are," said the President. "That’s who we must be once more – that young nation that teaches the world to march forward."