States respond to President’s nationwide wireless broadband initiative

Last week, President Obama traveled to Marquette County, Michigan to unveil a nationwide, high-speed wireless plan. The initiative received applause from a handful of governors who said the expansion would benefit their local economies and benefit efforts to build out the National Public Safety Broadband Network for first responders.

The $18 billion initiative would provide wireless broadband to 98 percent of Americans over the next five years and would be part of broad reorganization of wireless spectrum. The White House’s “Win the Future through the Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure” initiative would depend on nearly $28 billion raised through voluntary spectrum auctions currently held by television stations and government agencies.

Speaking at Northern Michigan University, President Obama highlighted the schools WiMAX network, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said his administration was focused on expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula.

Governors from Vermont and Maryland also used the President’s initiative as an opportunity to spotlight their own work to expand wireless broadband in their states.

Governor Peter Shumlin said, “Clearly the President understands the need – and the financial benefits – of bringing high quality broadband and other telecommunication services to all areas of the country. This is an investment that will help farmers, bankers, students and virtually every American compete in our global marketplace.”

Vermont is working to expand broadband, mobile telephone service to 100 percent of the state by 2013.

Maryland’s Martin O’Malley focused on the National Governor’s Association work to develop the National Public Safety Broadband Network, calling the President’s initiative to re-allocate the D Block of spectrum for use by first responders a “critical goal for the interoperability of our public safety agencies and for the security of our citizens.”

According to the plan, $10.7 billion would fund the new public safety network, $5 billion would be a one-time allotment to expand wireless broadband in rural areas and $3 billion would go towards research to develop methods for using mobile Internet access for emerging technologies in health, education and energy.

Observers question the government’s ability to raise $27 billion through the proposed auction process, however.

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