Obama’s Quest to Bring Wi-Fi to the Hills and Hollers

Obama wants to end the rural-urban Internet divide and sees better quality Wi-Fi and access as a key ingredient to moving forward and making America more competitive with other nations.

satellite dish

President Barack Obama wants to inject $5 billion into a national fund enabling high-speed Internet access for 98% of Americans. Even those in the sticks.


The early sketchings of the plan were laid out last year, but it’s shifted into high gear following news that $27.8 billion will be raised over the next decade by gradually auctioning off private airwaves to companies that will serve customers in rural areas.

Obama is scheduled to lay out the plan today in Michigan. It’s the latest in his series of moves aimed at making the U.S. more competitive–a goal he laid out in his State of the Union address.

We don’t normally think about social disparities in wireless access in the United States–developing countries, yes–but between rural and urban areas in America the disparity exists at 75% penetration versus 89% penetration. Obama will thus push forward with plans to secure 500MHz of wireless airwaves from private companies that own a whole lot more spectrum than they actually use, thereby lessening Wi-Fi inequalities.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.