President Barack Obama wants more Americans to have access to affordable broadband, no matter where they live.
The president will deliver that message Wednesday from Cedar Falls, Iowa, according to Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council and an assistant to the president on economic policy. Zients on Tuesday discussed the president's initiatives, including incentives to build out the needed infrastructure, coalitions of universities and municipalities to promote broadband, and an effort to eliminate laws that stifle competition.
The US Department of Agriculture, for example, will offer between $40 million and $50 million to rural carriers that invest in bringing broadband in rural areas. According to a report from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, 53 percent of rural Americans have no access to high-speed Internet, which he defined as capable of downloading content at 25 megabits per second.
The administration will also formally oppose laws that limit competition for high-speed Internet access. A document from the White House press office said 19 states have laws that stifle competition. The administration is filing a letter with the FCC "urging it to join this effort by addressing barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens." Zients did not specify what the FCC could do to remove such barriers.
President Obama's speech Wednesday continues his lead up to the January 20 State of the Union address, where he will also propose steps to increase privacy and identity protection, improve cybersecurity for both private companies and the government and ensure affordable, and equitable access to high-speed Internet.
The president's announcements follow the massive hack of Sony Pictures late last year. The attackers crippled Sony's computer network and leaked unreleased films, inflammatory e-mails and financial documents. They also threatened violence against theaters that showed "The Interview," a comedy about an assassination attempt aimed at North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. The US government has said North Korea was the force behind the attack and has imposed sanctions against the country.
The announcements also follow a year of high-profile news stories about hacks of major retail chains in the US, including Home Depot, Target, Staples and others. Those attacks exposed various customer data, including, in some cases, numbers and verification codes for payment cards.