The future of broadband Internet in America is about to catch fire. Announcing a new initiative entitled “US Ignite,” President Obama today signed an executive order to lower broadband costs and increase the speed of broadband network installation through federal property while also taking the lead in a new partnership that aims to “create a new wave of service that take advantage of state-of-the-art, programmable broadband networks running up to 100 times faster than today’s Internet.”
The partnership, also called US Ignite, describes itself as “an initiative to promote US leadership in developing applications and services for ultra-fast broadband and software-defined networks” by “foster[ing] the creation of novel applications and digital experiences that will transform healthcare, education and job skills training, public safety, energy, and advanced manufacturing.” So far, so election year promises, right…? But, according to Ignite Executive Director Sue Spradley, it’s more than just empty sloganeering and suitably vague futurism.
“Today, in Cleveland, Ohio there are families receiving medical care to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access through advanced telemedicine built on a new and flexible ultra-fast network. In Chattanooga, Tenn., a dozen new startups are building new applications for everything from improved transportation to disaster response to a smart energy-grid by taking advantage of the city’s gigabit-to-the-home fiber optic network,” Spradley is quoted as saying in the press release announcing the partnership. “The future of technology as many think about it, is possible today. And through US Ignite, we’ll be helping to deploy advanced applications for Americans everywhere.”
Ignite already has almost 100 partners, ranging from 60 national research universities to 25 cities across America, as well as big name companies like Comcast, Cisco and HP. Also onboard is Mozilla, which has launched its own Mozilla Ignite site, a collaboration with the National Science Foundation that’ll issue up to $500,000 in grant money to third party developers looking to devise and develop innovative apps in one of five areas (Advanced manufacturing, clean energy and transportation, eduction and workforce technologies, healthcare, and public safety).
Of course, this development would be moot if people didn’t have the Internet access to take advantage of it, which is where today’s executive order comes in. The order will make broadband construction up to 90 percent cheaper along Federal roadways and property, as well as push those agencies managing said properties – the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service – to offer broadband carriers a single approach across the board to leasing assets to facilitate broadband deployment. “By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed and our citizens become more engaged,” President Obama is quoted as saying in a White House statement.
Will a faster, better Internet make America a faster, better country…? Or will we all just find that it’s even easier to lose hours in front of Netflix?