Igniting US Broadband Through Obama Administration Executive Order

Broadband and Democratization, Broadband Updates, Broadband's Impact, Education, FCC, Fiber, Health, The Innovation Economy June 20th, 2012

, Deputy Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2012 — Last Thursday President Obama announced the launch of a new initiative, “US Ignite” and signed an Executive Order reducing the cost and barriers to broadband build out and construction along federal roadways and properties.  The Order aims to make construction 90 percent cheaper and more efficient.

The Federal Government owns approximately 30% of US lands and owns or leases approximately 10,000 buildings nationwide, many of these provide excellent pathways for broadband infrastructure.  According to the White House Press release, the Executive Order (EO) will require, “the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment.”  The EO will require federal assets and leasing requirements to be posted on agency websites and furthermore, require public tracking of broadband deployment projects through the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard (permits.performance.gov).

The primary effort to promote savings associated with the cost of construction is apparent through the EO’s directive to agency departments to help carriers time their deployment to periods when streets are already under construction. FCC Chairman Genachowski noted, “This Executive Order is also an example of how we can make government more efficient.  It creates a process for streamlining and harmonizing federal regulations and standardizing contracting.  The result will be cost-savings for taxpayers and private industry.”

Along with the Executive Order the administration announced the launch of their US Ignite Initiative, whose purpose is to create a public private partnership that capitalizes on the possibilities of an ultrafast broadband network to develop next generation internet applications.  The initiative has over 100 partners from corporations to nonprofit entities and includes over 25 cities, and more than 60 national research universities.  According to the White House, Us Ignite will, “create a national network of communities and campuses with ultra-fast, programmable broadband services, operating at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.  This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities.” The six national priorities include education and workforce development, advanced  manufacturing, health, transportation, public safety, and clean energy.

The three major elements of the US-Ignite initiative include, first, integrating research campuses , networks and cities by leveraging previous investment in network infrastructure through the use of the Global Environment of Network Investment (GENI). GENI which is a virtual research lab for scaled network experiements for the future internet is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) which is the lead agency responsible for foundational research into software defined networking and public sector gigabit applications and services.

The second element of the initiative involves jumpstarting at-scale experimentations on public sector applications and services through the NSF funded, Mozilla Open Innovation Challenges program that enables peer based learning and exchange through workshops and open source application development competitions.

The third element is the creation of the US Ignite Partnership, a public private, independent non-profit organization to bring together industry, foundations and community partners and resources.

One of the main goals of the US Ignite Partnership is to launch approximately 60 advanced next generation apps over the next 5 years in the six areas of national priority. The White House noted that the point is to “challenge the most talented members of society to come up with a new generation of applications and services that meet the needs of local communities while creating a broad range of job and investment opportunities.”

Another goal of the Partnership involves, providing for 200 community test beds for testing and developing the next gen apps by coordinating the deployment of infrastructure from US- Ignite’s partners including the telcos, cable companies, municipalities, and research and education network operators. Some of these networks and test beds are already under way in Cleveland, Chattanooga, and Philadelphia.  Presentations and videos about these developments can be found on the US-Ignite website.

Finally the Partnership aims to work with industry, foundations, carriers, government, researchers, venture capitalists and software engineers to create a forum for coordination and best practice sharing.

Aside from the website,  more information on US-Ignite can be found on the Fact Sheet  released by the White House.

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