President: 4G Wireless Access to 98% of Americans Within Five Years

Obama plans to begin State of the Union address with praise for contentious debate, but calls for working together

President Barack Obama did not take long to get into the issue of contentious political debate in his State of the Union Speech, according to a copy of his "prepared for delivery" remarks.

But the President also used the opportunity to tell parents it was their job to turn off the TV and make sure their kids get their work done, and for the U.S. to do a better job of deploying broadband, saying that "South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do."

He pledged that "Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next
generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age" (see below). He christened it the National Wireless Initiative.

The FCC Tuesday voted to launch a framework for an interoperable broadband communications network. The commission has also pushed the national broadband plan as a way to boost online education and health monitoring.

The President talked of both, saying the broadband push is about "a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor."

After pointing out that there was an empty chair where injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords should have been sitting, he waded right in, suggesting that it was not just about talking more civilly to each other, but working together to solve problems that can't be solved without cooperation.

"It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years," President Obama said early in the speech. "The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing. That's what a robust democracy demands. That's what helps set us apart as a nation," he said.

The President continued: "But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater - something more consequential than party or political preference."

He evoked the Tucson tragedy on a personal level as well, saying that "the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled."

"What comes of this moment is up to us," he said. "What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. I believe we can. I believe we must."

Sounding like a president with a split Congress moving to the middle to try and govern, he said: "New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all - for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics." And in a line sure to warm the hearts of industry, he said: "We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business."

New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all - for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

"At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else," he said. "It's
whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded."

He also put a couple of Internet companies in rarified company, saying it was a nation of "Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living."

Talking about the need for a better-educated workforce, the President said: "Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.  We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline."

* In an e-mail to reporters, the White House outlined the wireless broadband challenge this way:

"Launching a National Wireless Initiative to provide 98% of Americans access to high-speed Internet: To move toward connecting every American to the digital age, including rural communities, the President announced that he will work to help business extend the next generation of wireless services to 98 percent of all Americans.

This National Wireless Initiative will enable businesses to grow faster, students to learn more, and public safety officials to access state-of-the-art, secure, nationwide, and interoperable mobile communications. For public safety officials, this can mean the difference between success and failure, or even life and death; as such technologies can allow emergency workers to access building designs at the scene of an accident and police officers to send pictures to one another in real-time. Finally, the initiative will foster the conditions for the next generations of wireless technology, nearly doubling the amount of wireless spectrum available for mobile broadband (through incentive auctions and other mechanisms to ensure spectrum is used more efficiently) and providing critical support for R&D in wireless innovation."