National Broadband: The Mobile Opportunity

07/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is Internet policy moving to the Administration's front burner? It's starting to look that way and that means big opportunities for the American public. First, on May 29, the president addressed the issue head-on, releasing a report on U.S. cybersecurity and repeating his commitment to improving affordable broadband access.

Four days later, Susan Crawford, the president's special assistant for science, technology and innovation policy, expanded on this call at a high-tech conference in Washington. "To be connected is increasingly essential," she said, noting that much of the administration's domestic agenda, including healthcare and energy reform, hinges on improving Internet connectivity.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is developing a National Broadband Plan to help ensure that all Americans have access to high speed services.

In short, the pieces are coming together for the president to get Congress and the public behind a truly forward-looking national Internet policy. How? By focusing on the real-world benefits from broadband and particularly the role that wireless can play in delivering high speed Internet service, and all of the opportunities that come with it, to consumers.

Here are just a few examples of how we all can benefit from wireless broadband:

Healthcare savings. Using wireless devices to keep tabs on chronic conditions can improve communications between patients and their healthcare providers, while significantly cutting costs of patient care. In-home wireless health monitoring service runs only about $100/month while allowing patients to stay in their own homes with their families -- a fraction of the cost for comparable monitoring in residential care facilities.

Opportunities for rural America. The cost of fiber optic deployment has been estimated to be between several hundred and $1,000 per mile. But next generation 4-G broadband, which will cover most of the nation by the end of President Obama's first term anyway, offers a viable option at significant per mile savings. The result: new economic opportunity for rural America.

Better public safety.
Between one-third and one half of all 911 calls come from mobile phones. More than 100 police departments either have an anonymous text message "Tip Line" or are planning one. And as Hurricane Gustav showed last year, mobile communication is vital for search and rescue.

The Obama campaign's use of wireless to engage American voters was historic. With so many opportunities on the horizon, now is the time to put in place a national broadband framework that encourages investment and innovation and embraces the critical role that wireless can play to achieve the nation's broadband goals.

Jonathan Spalter, chairman of the Mobile Future coalition, served as chief information officer at the United States Information Agency during the Clinton administration.