President Obama made a powerful, affirming speech to the innovation community at Northern Michigan University, laying out a bold roadmap for how he plans to achieve his goal to connect virtually all Americans to the wireless Internet in the next five years.
President Obama made clear that it's not government alone -- or even foremost -- that will connect a mobile nation. Companies large and small continue to make the capital investment and commit the resources that put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work laying the pipes and building the towers of the nation's next information frontier. From the garages of Silicon Valley to the corporate and academic technology labs, innovators are competing fiercely to create the next exciting breakthrough.
In his remarks, the President acknowledged that this profound innovation and growth is the key to future prosperity for our nation, and is yielding results both for consumers and for the economy.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has long (and rightly) evangelized on the merits of fact-based, data-driven policymaking. And the facts are that choice and competition define every corner of the modern mobile marketplace. Two-thirds of Americans can choose from among five or more wireless providers. The device market could not be more hotly contested right now. Consumers can add mobile Internet to their voice service for as little as $15 a month. And, they tell the FCC in no uncertain terms that they are satisfied with their wireless services with a 92% customer satisfaction rating.
With his focus on the mobile Internet, President Obama is building from a strong base. Six out of 10 Americans now use a wireless device to access the Internet. As early as 2014, more people may go online via mobile devices than PCs. And, if the priority is digital inclusion, President Obama has squarely hit his mark. Roughly two-thirds of African-Americans and Latinos are wireless Internet users -- and one in three connect daily. Even low-income Americans are finding cost-effective ways to access the mobile web, showing an 8% growth in wireless Internet use this past year.
All of these trends clearly indicate the intensity of competition and the value it delivers every day to a diverse array of Americans. The task for government now should be to encourage this progress -- both in word and in deed -- and do what is necessary to promote investment and growth for mobile and other innovation sectors.
The President gets it. Last month, he ordered a sweeping review of federal regulations with an eye toward easing undue burdens "that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs." If ever there was a poster-child for the profound expansion and job creation such a perspective could trigger, it is the jaw-dropping growth and innovation we have all borne witness too in recent years with wireless. From day one, Congress made the decision to let a competitive dynamic guide the marketplace. They showed rightful restraint, and we all are the beneficiaries of that decision.
As President Obama works to ensure a constructive government climate for economic growth, he's right to focus early, significant attention on wireless. In the toughest economic times the nation has seen in decades, broadband innovators -- including wireless -- have led private capital investment in the U.S. economy. Only the history books will know what true progress comes from this initiative. But if the President's wireless program is successful, one of its greatest innovations won't be a hip device or cool app, but a powerful new model for forward-looking policy in this country that unites the interests of consumers, innovators and our economy, so we can grow as we should -- together.
Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration.
Mobile Future is a 501(c)(4) coalition comprised of and supported by technology businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. For a full list of members and sponsors and to learn more about the coalition, go to www.mobilefuture.org.