15 Jan 2015

Obama says high-speed broadband is a necessity, not a luxury

Wading into a states' rights dispute over Internet access, President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for the repeal of laws that prevent local communities from creating their own broadband networks.
Obama, for the second time in three months, cast himself as an antagonist to large cable and telephone companies that provide the bulk of the nation's Internet service.
Obama said faster speeds would create jobs and allow local businesses to compete in the global economy. "Today high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it's a necessity," Obama said from a storage area at Cedar Falls Utilities, with shelves full of coiled wire and other equipment.
Obama is encouraging the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt state laws that stifle competition and said his administration will work to cut red tape so more communities can get connected.
"In too many places across America, some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors," Obama said in Cedar Falls, which he credited with having one of the fastest networks in the world after fiber optic upgrades throughout the city. "Today, I'm saying we're going to change that. Enough's enough."
Obama said his administration will provide technical and financial assistance to towns and cities that want to improve Internet service for their residents. The modest proposals do not require congressional approval and are part of a series of measures Obama is rolling out before his State of the Union address next week.
His stance is at odds with major cable and telephone companies such as AT&T, Comcast andTime Warner Cable Inc. that currently provide Internet service, often with little or no competition. Obama has already angered the industry by calling for new FCC rules that treat Internet service providers as public utilities.
An industry lobbying group, CTIA-The Wireless Association, said its members are committed to expanding broadband but criticized Obama's approach.
"The president's focus today on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward," association president Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement. "The wireless industry has invested $100 billion in the last four years alone. In such a vigorously competitive market, government-owned networks would only serve to chill private-sector investment, tilt the competitive playing field and harm consumers."

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