Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg

Faster Internet Service Gets Boost From Obama Administration

  • White House plan includes $400 million in federal funds
  • 5G service could arrive sooner with investment, official says

The Obama administration is planning to spend millions of dollars in seed money to help develop the next generation of internet service that could enable ambulances to communicate with emergency rooms and smarter cars to avoid collisions and ease traffic.

Saying technology developments are bipartisan and likely to be continued by the next presidential administration, Obama officials on Friday planned to announced a $400 million research initiative to spur companies and universities to figure out how to make the internet faster.

“Science and technology is one of those areas where there’s actually a very good record of initiatives being started in one administration and being carried over into the next one,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “There is a recognition that these are long-term investments we need to create to fuel economic growth and job creation.”

Kalil pointed to President Bill Clinton’s nanotechnology initiative that President George W. Bush continued and Bush’s cybersecurity strategy that Obama built on as examples of how technology priorities carry over from one administration to the next. The spending plan would require appropriation by Congress.

The White House initiative is intended to build on the Federal Communications Commission’s action Thursday to open a little-used airwave spectrum to provide the vehicle for fifth generation, or 5G, networks that could be 10 times faster than today’s top internet speeds. The FCC voted unanimously to open frequencies that allow internet signals to be transmitted over short distances. The speed of the faster service made available to consumers will be up to Internet provider companies, Kalil said.

The White House wants to prod development of 5G internet service with federal funds coupled with private sector money from companies that can help universities bring new technology to the marketplace. The National Science Foundation and companies including Intel Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. are collectively committing to spending $85 million over five years to help test the next generation internet.

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