It was lost in the news about Egypt yesterday, but the primary point of President Obama’s trip to Marquette, Michigan, was to talk about the extension of broadband networks to 98% of the U.S. population.
“It’s about connecting every corner of America to the digital age,” the president said. “It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers can monitor weather across the state and markets across the globe. It’s about an entrepreneur on Main Street with a great idea she hopes to sell to the big city. It’s about every young person who no longer has to leave his hometown to seek new opportunity — because opportunity is right there at his or her fingertips.” Here is the Washington Post story.
The Obama administration hopes to double the wireless spectrum available for mobile broadband by auctioning spectrum now held by broadcasters. Obama is also asking Congress to set aside $5 billion to bring wireless coverage to rural areas; he would spend $3 billion on research into new wireless technologies.
“A plan such as this necessarily requires a lot of assumptions,” Matt Wood, associate director of the Media Access Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, said in an e-mail. “It is very hard to predict exactly how much money these auctions would raise, and how much will have to be shared with incumbent licensees. Thus, while these initiatives may be on the right track, questions remain as to whether this plan will work.”
•Florida’s new governor, Republican Rick Scott, has cancelled a prescription drug monitoring system that Kentucky officials believe would help stem the flow of pain and anti-anxiety pills into the state.
“Florida has been a key destination for people from Kentucky and other states seeking pills because it has hundreds of pain clinics — some of them cash-only operations where doctors allegedly do little real treatment — and because it had no system to track prescriptions,” writes Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Kentucky officials were hoping a new prescription monitoring system would begin this year. But Scott eliminated the program in his proposed budget this week.
“Everyone up here, law enforcement, feels like we’ve been kicked in the teeth,” said Frank Rapier, director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, based in London, Kentucky. “To take a step back like this is incredible.”
• Here’s a Washington Post column on the contribution of biofuels to the world food crisis.
• Iowa is getting more urban.
• Rural legislators are attempting to maintain the federal program that subsidizes air service to rural communities.
• Rep. Chris Lee of Amherst, in Western New York, quit his seat after it was found he sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist.
Lee, a Republican, comes from a district that has 29% of its residents living in rural areas. The national average is about 20%.
Lee’s district (well, his ex-district) ranked 151st out of 435 districts in terms of its rural-ness.