Obama administration creates broadband council, aims to increase investment, lower deployment barriers

President Barack Obama has taken another shot in his broadband agenda by signing a Presidential Memorandum to create a Broadband Opportunity Council, naming the Commerce and Agriculture departments as co-chairs.

Set at increasing broadband investment and reducing barriers to deployment and adoption, the Broadband Opportunity Council will include 25 federal agencies and departments that are engaged with industry and other stakeholders to gain a better understanding how the government can support communities that want to increase their broadband investments.

The council will also help examine regulatory barriers that impede deployment or competition and take steps to remove those barriers.

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling will serve as Commerce's representative on the council. The council will build on Commerce's interagency work, and NTIA's broadband expertise.

Broadband has been a key focus for the Obama administration. In January, the president visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, a town that has built a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network that delivers 1 Gbps to consumers and business customers. 

At that time, he filed a letter with the FCC urging it to join this effort by addressing barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens.

During the February meeting, the FCC moved to preempt elements of state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that were designed to restrict municipal providers in these communities from providing broadband service outside of their current serving areas. 

NTIA has been a major force in helping to bring broadband to areas of the United States where service was either limited or non-existent through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, the broadband grant program funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and now through the new BroadandUSA initiative.

In related news, the USDA has provided funding for three rural telecom network projects to improve broadband service in parts of rural Arkansas, Iowa and New Mexico.

Southwest Arkansas Telephone will receive a $25 million loan to upgrade portions of a fiber network and convert the remaining portions of a copper system to fiber to improve service for subscribers.

In New Mexico, Mescalero Apache Telecom will receive a $5.4 million loan to upgrade portions of its system and provide fiber service to approximately 50 percent of its territory. Finally, Iowa's Minburn Communications has been selected to receive a $4.7 million loan to upgrade its copper network to fiber, and to provide subscribers with voice, broadband and video service.

For more:
- see the Obama administration fact sheet
- see the USDA release

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