Last night’s State of the Union speech, attended by all the Washington political glitterati who chose some interesting seating partners, was all about forward movement. During his hour-long discourse, President Barack Obama focused in part on innovation, broadband and new opportunities, and he urged American businesses to get off the dime.

“We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business,” he said, to applause. “We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And, tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.”?

He continued, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone else – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living.”

Pushing his own broadband plan, the president noted, “Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls; it’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s 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.”

Indeed, the march toward a faster wireless broadband environment already has begun, according to ABI Research associate Fei Feng Seet, “The rapid uptake of mobile broadband has increasingly revolutionized network operators’ strategies. Consumers are now spending more time on social networking, blogging and online gaming among other activities, and they need to stay connected everywhere. This has contributed to the success of new brands such as Clearwire…and further pushed network operators around the world to build next-generation data networks rapidly to gain market share.” Such recognition has led carriers to either indicate interest in, or commitment to, the deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G networks.

(Editor’s note: We will be reporting on post-LTE-deployment testing in the March 2011 issue of Communications Technology.)

The Difference Between Computer Chips, Potato Chips

While agreeing with the president on the need to get the business ball rolling again, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) President Robert Atkinson released a statement asking the Obama administration to take another look at corporate tax rates.

“ITIF has long argued that effective corporate rates are too high and that valuable credits, such as the R&D credit, are too stingy,” he wrote. “However, a complex economy sometimes benefits from a complex tax system. Computer chips are different from potato chips and they shouldn’t be taxed the same way. New machinery and equipment is different from housing and they shouldn’t be taxed the same way.”??

He continued, “ITIF urges the creation of a new corporate competitiveness tax credit that would include a much more generous credit for R&D, and a credit for business investments in workforce training and new capital equipment, especially software. Making these investments will cost money in the short run but they will generate potentially huge returns to the economy and the government in the long run.”??

Added economist Dr. Everett Ehrlich, president of ESC Company and former Clinton Administration Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, “America’s economy can’t recover without a vibrant tech sector. The Administration has it right when emphasizing the importance of investment, and policies that encourage robust growth in broadband investment, deployment and enrichment are particularly important.”

He added, “Alarmingly, nearly 100 million Americans still are on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’ and do not utilize broadband, while 14 million Americans don’t have access to broadband infrastructure. That limits our ability to expand high-tech jobs, grow small businesses and encourage new distance-learning opportunities.”

Having said that, Erhlich took on network neutrality, putting it on the “just say no” list.

“The unregulated broadband sector is an example of where the free market worked. The Administration’s search for counter-productive regulation should start with its dalliance with ‘net neutrality’ and the Federal Communication Commission’s quest to re-regulate the Internet,” he stressed. “That kind of heavy-handed regulation would hold back investment in broadband infrastructure and new broadband-based services, and in turn, economic growth and job creation. The top priority must be making broadband available for all Americans.”

More Reactions

Vonya McCann, senior vice president/Government Affairs at Sprint: “Sprint commends President Obama for his leadership in promoting nationwide access to advanced wireless services and working to ensure that our nation’s first responders get what they have long needed and deserved, wireless interoperable public safety broadband services."

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO at the Consumer Electronics Association: “Our spotlight on innovation must include trade agreements, as we need overseas markets for U.S. businesses to grow and create American jobs. The Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements will bolster U.S. exports of goods and services and CEA continues to urge swift passage of these FTAs. The president also spoke about the importance of broadband and its link to technological leadership. Our nation’s continued movement forward depends on high-speed competitive broadband and finding the best uses for our finite spectrum, whether licensed or unlicensed. Moving the National Broadband Plan forward is crucial, and we appreciate the president’s call for action.”

-Debra Baker

The Daily

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