Obama Proposes Community Broadband Plan: "It's Like Being The First City To Have Fire"


The president spoke about net neutrality, community broadband, and giving Americans the tools they need to innovate in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the site of one of the U.S.'s first municipal broadband networks.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Folks around the nation want these broadband networks, they are good for business, communities, schools, even the marketplace because they promote efficiency and competition. Here in Cedar Falls [Iowa], if you want the highest speed package you can still choose between the Cedar Falls utilities or options like MediaCom or CenturyLink. It is not like you don't have choices!

You can pick the company that offers the best service and lowest cost for your families needs. That is how free markets and capitalism are supposed to work.

But here is the catch.

In too many places across America some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors. Today in 19 states we have got laws on the books that stamp out competition and make it really difficult for cities to provide their own broadband the way you guys are...

So today I am saying, we're going to change that... Today I am making my administration's position clear on community broadband. I'm saying, I'm on the side of competition. And I'm on the side of small business owners like Mark. And students and schools. I believe every community has the right to make its own choice and to provide its own broadband if it wants to.

Nobody is going to force you to do it, if you want to do it. If the community decides this is something we're going to do to give ourselves a competitive edge, they should follow your lead...

All of us including the FCC should do everything we can to push back on those old laws...

We're going to clear away red tape. We're going to foster competition. We're going to help communities connect, and help communities succeed in our digital economy. (Applause.)

And the good news is we know it works because of you. (Laughter.) You guys were like the guinea pigs on this thing. You took a chance and you made something happen. And you're supporting the jobs of the future through faster, cheaper Internet. We want everybody to do that.

I want to leave you with a story of another community that has done this, as well. Chattanooga, Tennessee -- it’s an old railroad town -- was once called the dirtiest city in the nation. During the recession, they were hit harder than most places. But that did not stop them from building America’s first citywide, high-speed, fiber network -— right down the middle of downtown. It’s as fast as what you guys got here in Cedar Falls.

Today, a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs have moved down to Chattanooga. Big businesses have set up shop. Volkswagen built a billion-dollar manufacturing plant. It’s unleashing a tornado of innovation -- the city is even testing out futuristic technologies like 3-D holograms. And here’s what their former mayor said, It’s like having -- “It’s like being the first city to have fire. We don’t know all of the things we can do with it yet.”

Yet. But think about that. And you're first in something, when you figure something out, you may not know all the applications right away, but that's the spirit of America -- imagining what might come next. We may not always know what’s right around the corner, but we know we’ll figure it out as long as we're bold and we go ahead and work together.

We’ve been through some very hard times. We didn’t always know those hard times were coming, but we pulled together, we worked together, we relied on each other, we believed in each other, and we figured it out.

We’re blessed with the greatest natural resource in the world -- not corn -- (laughter) -- but the pluck and the ingenuity and the willingness to take risks of the American people. And I’m absolutely confident that if we just give Americans the tools they need, if we just help lay the foundation and allow them to access the amazing opportunities and technologies at this moment in world history, we’re not just going to continue recovering from a bad recession, we’re going to ignite the next generation of American innovation. And it's going to start right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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