President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to cut through the “red tape” preventing communities from offering fast and cheap Internet to their citizens. Obama spoke in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where a municipal broadband network offers Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second, which is over 100 times faster than the national average.
Obama said the FCC will have to address laws in 19 states that prevent cities from building their own networks, much to the chagrin of providers like Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. According to NPR, Obama said high-speed Internet access “is not a luxury,” but “a necessity."
Obama offered the preview of his annual State of the Union address at Cedar Falls Utilities amid spools of wire and electricians tools. He said that having faster Internet access will make the U.S. more competitive in the global economy.
"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," Obama said, according to the Des Moines Register. "And the good news is we know it works because of you. You guys were like the guinea pigs on this thing."
Obama introduced new federal grants and loans for Internet service providers to improve their networks on Wednesday, and said that he asked the FCC to protect municipal broadband and use its regulatory power to fight 19 state laws that prohibit communities from offering it.
"In too many place across America, some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors," Obama said, according to the Register. "In some states, it is virtually impossible to create a community network like the one that you've got here in Cedar Falls. So today, I'm saying we're going to change that."