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U.S. President Barack Obama was upbeat at his State of the Union Address, but issued tough challenges to the FCC and Congress, respectively, when it comes to wireless spectrum, oil incentives, and alternative energy.  (Source:


On Wednesday, President Obama will visit Wisconsin green energy startup Orion Energy Systems, a provider of energy-efficient lighting and solar-power solutions. The President will also visit two other local businesses.  (Source: Orion Energy Systems)
Government hopes to release 500 MHz; but plan relies on TV networks agreeing to auction of their spectrum

After pounding net neutrality and several less tech-related issues through the door, U.S. President Barack Obama was back at it during his annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, trying to fulfill yet another one of his campaign promises.

I. Step Right up to the Wireless Spectrum Auction!

When elected, the President promised to deliver faster wireless networks to Americans.  How he plans on making good on that promise is by freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum, currently left unused, and selling it to spectrum-hungry wireless network providers like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

During his State of the Union Address [video], he remarked, "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."

The federal government has 380 of the 500 MHz it needs.  However, the other 120 MHz is currently occupied and unused by television networks, which were gifted it long ago.  The administration is trying to set up a special auction to convince these networks to part with the unused spectrum by letting them keep a cut of the auction proceeds.

Verizon Wireless general counsel Steve Zipperstein [profile] cheered the measure, stating to Reuters, "President Obama is helping the nation to understand the incredible benefits that broadband wireless can bring: to our business, to healthcare, to productivity and to education.  Wireless innovation requires public policies that foster innovation, growth and encourage continued investment by Verizon and our partners in the technology."

Television broadcasters, however, have expressed mixed feelings on the issue.  While they appreciate that the auction will give them funds and that it's voluntary, they are reticent to part with the unused spectrum, partly because they accuse wireless networks of sitting on unused spectrum they previously purchased.  States Dennis Wharton [profile], a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters to Reuters, "We would encourage Congress to immediately pass spectrum inventory legislation that fully identifies airwaves that are not being used."

Clearly, as with the net neutrality issue, President Obama has his work cut out for him.  But at the very least, he can urge Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski [profile] to open up the 380 MHz reserve as soon as possible, even if he can't convince TV providers to willingly sell their unused spectrum.

II.  Hitting the Road for Alternative Energy

Life isn't always easy if you're the president of the world's richest nation.  Not ready to call it a night just yet, hours after giving his address President Obama hopped a late night flight to Wisconsin.  There he plans to today plug his five "pillar" vision, which calls for: innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction and government reform.

The visit is largely focused on the innovation and infrastructure pillars, and specifically, his objectives concerning alternative energy.  During his speech last night, the President urged Congress to act swiftly to eliminate incentives to oil companies who import oil from unstable foreign sources (e.g. Venezuela and the Middle East).  

During the speech President Obama stated, "I don't know if you’ve noticed, but [the oil companies are] doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow's."

President Obama hopes to walk a narrow tightrope of investing massively in alternative energy, but avoiding increasing the spending deficit.  Key to that plan is scaling back military efforts overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, refocusing that funding on the home front.

By 2035, the President wants 80 percent of America's energy to come from alternative sources like modern nuclear fission, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, biofuel (algae, switchgrass, etc.), tidal power, and hydroelectric power.  Congress has yet to authorize that lofty goal or discuss what kind of government funding might be necessary to help achieve it.  Meanwhile China and the EU have pledged over a trillion dollars over the next two decades to clean energy projects, threatening to leave the U.S. far behind [1] [2] [3] [4].

On Wednesday, the President will visit [press release] Wisconsin's Orion Energy Systems, a manufacturing company in Manitowoc, that designs energy efficient lighting and solar power solutions, which it sells domestically.  

The President's visit to Manitowoc will be a first for a sitting U.S. President.  Orion Energy Systems CEO and President Neil Verfuerth, cheers the President's decision and the chance to show off the success his "green" firm has enjoyed.  It comes at a time when the energy-efficient lighting industry is reeling from a disappointing study released by the Californian state government, which showed compact fluorescent lamps burning out quicker that expected and saving less energy.

Two other domestic firms in Manitowoc will also receive a visit from the President on Wednesday.  He will travel to Skana Aluminum Company, a revived domestic manufacturer who received a $650,000 state grant to employ 110 people and resume manufacturing.  He will also visit Tower Tech Systems, a wind turbine manufacturer.

Despite the fact that his constituents are eagerly awaiting the President's visit and support, new Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) [homepage] seized the opportunity to attack the President in a Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal column.  He writes:

Washington's agenda has put a stranglehold on our economy. The pitiful result of the stimulus package is proof that growing government does not grow our economy. We need a thriving private sector to do that. We need to encourage and incentivize entrepreneurs, not tax and regulate them to death.

What America has accomplished over its short history is truly remarkable. America is exceptional -- it is precious. And we are bankrupting it. Americans hunger for leadership. They want leaders who understand that the only way to set America's economy back on the right path is to promote freedom, protect the free market system and respect our founders' vision of limited government.

The call for a limited government will please many, but when China and the EU are racing ahead on the heels of massive high-tech investment in clean energy and high-speed rail, one must wonder if the economic wind is shifting when it comes to massive infrastructure projects.  And many forget that the U.S.'s greatest technological innovations historically -- the railroad system and the telephone network, came on the heels of what would now amount to billions, if not trillions of dollars in land, tax breaks, and subsidies.

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RE: Just another lying dirtbag politician IMO
By captainBOB on 1/26/2011 11:25:39 AM , Rating: -1
Could you *please* just inform yourself before making statements that make you look like another glen beck automatron spewing the party line?

I don't care if you don't like Obama or whatever, just have a good reason for it besides the usual "socialist just because" accusations from the not-so-objective media outlets.

RE: Just another lying dirtbag politician IMO
By espaghetti on 1/26/2011 2:18:27 PM , Rating: 2
Hear, let me help you.
They both have spent money that they didn't and don't have by virtue of signing bills that were drafted and voted on by a congress that was trying to get re-elected by handing out "grants" and "projects"

Write this down and don't you dare come back with "Well, they all do it!"
It's time to lead by example.

By espaghetti on 1/26/2011 2:20:08 PM , Rating: 2
There. Perfect.

RE: Just another lying dirtbag politician IMO
By MrBungle123 on 1/26/2011 4:04:39 PM , Rating: 2
Hey uh bob... yeah he may have been parroting someone else but If you have been halfway paying attention this last couple years Obama's policies have been pretty much socialistic in nature:

Annex 2 major auto companies... socialistic.

Setup a system to bankrupt health insurance companies (which will mean the government has to eventually come in and "save the day" by being a single payer)... socialistic.

Spend 800 billion dollars on a "stimulus" to fund a bunch of make work government programs, pay off campaign contributors, and extend unemployment "benefits" so that they are funcionally indestinguishable from welfare... socialistic

Its just easier to label him a socialist and be done with it in one word.

RE: Just another lying dirtbag politician IMO
By diggernash on 1/26/2011 6:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
But he said he was going to build us some them there fast trains.

What more can we ask for? I especially like that he is going to let me pay for part of their cost. It's a wonderful thing to live in rural America and be able to help fund all the sorted programs for urban areas. I don't even like driving into a town of 30,000; I can really see myself hopping a train to go to New York or Boston...

By Expunged on 1/26/2011 7:03:31 PM , Rating: 2
Here here.... I've been paying fuel tax, a fleet of vehicle taxes, etc for years and the road to my house is still 13 miles of rarely maintained dirt that connects to another 20 miles of crumbling, pothole infested, chip seal over asphalt that hasn't seen any maintenance in 20 years. I'm happy to know I'm not the only one that is paying for part of the cost of urban sprawl. I've seen the same interchange re-engineered, rebuilt, and revamped at least 4 times in the last 20 years and each time it's worse than before. Luckily I stay as far away from the wreck called a metropolis as possible.

The states, counties and local municipalities have all given their power away in the name of big government. The state steps in and says "Let us collect your sales tax for you, you don't have to maintain a sales tax department and we'll just send you a check". Sounds great to the local city except they don't realize that when the state needs some money they dip right into those funds. The state turns around and does the same thing, giving power to the federal government and at some point the local government has no power left because they have no funding and no ability to control their destiny.

The federal government should do the bare minimum things, provide for a national defense, deal with interstate issues, etc. Let the local governments do whatever they want, if Boston wants a train system let Boston pay for it, if LA wants health care let the residents of LA vote on it and pay for it. If the state wants something it needs to go to the counties for the funding, the counties go to the people.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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