Saying he wants to “clear away the red tape,” and “help communities succeed in our digital economy,” President Barack Obama traveled to Iowa on Wednesday to press for universal access to broadband high-speed Internet across the U.S.
It’s part of his cross-country tour that is laying out his priorities for the next year, ahead of his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
He told a group of about 200 residents and workers at the Cedar Falls Utilities company that he wants to make sure communities across America have the options that residents here have. The utility is owned by the city and is one of the first in the nation to offer speeds of up to one gigabit to every residence and business in the city. The President noted that Internet speeds here are, “100 times faster than the national average.” And more in line with cities like Tokyo or Hong Kong.
The President went on to say that 19 states have laws that would prevent cities like Cedar Falls from investing in and building their own Internet infrastructure – and instead protect entrenched monopolies that have no incentives to build out their networks.
Obama says one of his priorities this year is to get those laws off the books.
“I believe if you want to do it and the community decides its something we want to do … we should be able to do it,” he said.
He added if there are laws in place that prevent innovation, “Then all of us including the FCC … should do everything we can to push back on those old laws. More competition means more products and better prices.”
Obama also mentioned some other priorities that he’ll bring up in his State of The Union address next week, and joked that, with only two years left in office he, “didn’t want to wait to share my ideas.”
In the last week, Obama has traveled to Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee to preview his State of the Union priorities.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, he joined up with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam where he proposed a new plan called “America’s College Promise,” which would offer high school graduates of any age two years of community college paid for by the government.
He made a point of traveling to Tennessee on Air Force One with the state’s two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, to tout the bipartisan nature of his proposals.
In Iowa, though, the Republican governor did not attend the broadband event. His spokesman Jimmy Centers tells CNN that Gov. Terry Branstad was unable to attend because of “commitments at the Capitol.”
Gov. Branstad made statewide broadband access a priority in his campaign last year.
“We appreciate that President Obama recognizes Gov. Branstad’s work to make Iowa a leader in connecting its citizens … to high-speed broadband Internet,” Centers said. He added that the governor had not spoken with Obama.
The President used the city’s utility company as an example of communities investing in broadband infrastructure – and the payoffs. The Cedar Falls Utilities says the infrastructure for fast Internet speeds is helping the city attract high-tech companies, and the President noted that Internet giant Google honored the city as “Iowa’s top e-commerce city” last year.
The President is using each stop on his tour to highlight a separate legislative goal for the year.
Last week, in Arizona, the President announced executive actions to reduce mortgage insurance on federally insured loans.
And, in Michigan he touted the rebounding American car industry, which has added thousands of new manufacturing jobs in that state.
This week the President highlighted government efforts to crack down on cyber crimes, fight identity theft, hacking and protecting personal privacy online.
At an event at the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, he said he plans to introduce new legislation allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to go after cyber-criminals overseas, and offered a proposal to protect students’ privacy while using computers in schools.