Accessibility links

Obama Promotes Better Broadband Access to Boost Economy

  • Zlatica Hoke

Ahead of his annual State of the Union address on January 20, President Barack Obama is promoting ideas on how to boost the U.S. economy and improve the standard of living for more Americans. This week, his speeches have focused on the importance of digital technology for consumers and businesses, and on ways to protect confidential information in cyberspace.

Speaking to an audience in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Wednesday, President Obama said the U.S. economy is growing stronger, and he wants more Americans to feel that resurgence in their daily lives.

"And in the 21st century, in this age of innovation and technology so much of the prosperity that we are striving for, so many of the jobs that we want to create depend on our digital economy, depend on our ability to connect and to shop, and to do business and discover, and learn online in cyberspace," said Obama.

In order to succeed, the president said Americans in many communities needed faster and cheaper access to broadband.

"It's about giving the entrepreneur, the small businessperson on Main Street, a chance to compete with folks out in Silicon Valley or across the globe. It's about helping a student access the online courses and employment opportunities that can help her pursue her dreams," he said.

On Monday, the president unveiled plans to strengthen laws against identity theft by requiring businesses to inform consumers within 30 days if their information has been hacked. The plan also would criminalize companies selling consumers' data overseas.

"This is a matter of public safety and of public health. And most of this infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. So neither government nor the private sector can defend the nation alone. It's going to have to be a shared mission, government and industry working hand-in-hand as partners,” said Obama.

Privacy advocates have criticized the idea of data-sharing between companies and the government, following the discovery of U.S. government surveillance and bulk-data collection. But some analysts note that many companies share customers' personal data without their knowledge or consent.

"There are no real privacy laws regarding online browsing, regarding an awful lot of other information like health information, like financial - that data is often passed on to advertisers to insurance companies in an unlimited way. You and I don't actually know what data exist. We don't know what information about us these companies and the data brokers have," said Klaus Larres of the University of North Carolina.

Larres noted that Obama's plans may encounter opposition from some lawmakers.

"Considering the majority [Republican] balance in the new Congress, I think the likelihood that the bill is not going to pass is fairly high," said Larres.

President Obama expressed confidence Tuesday after meeting with a group of lawmakers that a compromise will be reached as it is in everyone's interest to protect U.S. economy from cyberattacks.