Broadband Initiatives Show Obama Knows How to Work With Businesses

by David Honig on June 15, 2012

For all the carping from political foes about President Obama’s supposed disdain for the business community, some recent White House initiatives designed to boost broadband suggest the President has a pretty good idea about how to work with American companies.

With an Executive Order on June 14, the President took aim at a critical roadblock to broadband deployment by telling government agencies to open the door to installation of critical infrastructure on properties controlled or owned by the federal government. He said better processes could cut costs by up to 90 percent and help the private sector accelerate the delivery of high-speed connectivity across the country.

“By connecting every corner of our country in to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed, and our citizens become more engaged,” the President said in announcing the Order.

The move probably won’t be featured on network news shows, daily newspapers, or online news sites, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that helps businesses succeed. Think about it. Every additional broadband line or cell tower that gets put down on government land [or on a building] means more orders for suppliers and helps broadband service providers reach more customers. All it takes is more efficiency by government. Instead of boosting their bottom line through layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, companies assisted by this Executive Order can now grow their businesses and create jobs at a faster pace. It’s really economic stimulus, without additional cost to the Treasury or haggling with Congress.

Separately, the administration announced a new public-private partnership to speed the development of applications that run on super-fast broadband networks. This can certainly help address national priorities such as education, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, public safety and clean energy. By bringing together businesses, non-profits, and government entities, including 25 cities, the US Ignite Partnership is in the best spirit of government and will be a catalyst for economic and community development. People tend to forget that the Internet started as a federal research program. With any luck, the US Ignite Partnership can set the stage for additional commercial successes and will continue to boost the economy.

Notably, the development of the networks themselves is left to the private sector, which has traditionally built America’s communications infrastructure. However, the government can help in a number of ways by implementing policies that encourage private sector investment in speedier networks, universal service programs that bring broadband to unserved areas where the market is falling short, and the allocation of radio spectrum to sustain the expansion of wireless networks for all the smartphones and tablet computers Americans are buying. Getting the federal government to allocate more spectrum is critical given the boom in mobile devices and applications. Super-fast wireless networks can degrade without sufficient spectrum, the invisible airwaves that carry wireless data from one place to the next.

The President’s new initiatives are both pro-consumer and pro-business because they make it possible for private industry to satisfy consumer needs. That’s pretty good for an administration that’s often accused, wrongly in my view, of not understanding what businesses need to succeed.

  • David Honig is MMTC’s President and Executive Director. He co-founded the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) in 1986. MMTC has represented over 70 minority, civil rights and religious national organizations in selected proceedings before the FCC, and it operates the nation’s only full service, minority owned media and telecom brokerage.

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