February 10, 2011/MIRS News
President Barack OBAMA held up the city of Marquette and Northern Michigan University (NMU) today as examples of how the United States can meet his State of the Union goal of having wireless Internet available to 98 percent of the country.
If the United States is going to continue to be an international economic powerhouse, access to high-speed Internet will be essential in attracting the new jobs and new business, he said.
More than 90 percent of homes in South Korea subscribe to the Internet, he said. Only 65 percent of U.S. households can say the same, the President said.
"When it comes to high-speed internet, the lights are still off in one-third of our households," Obama said. "For millions of Americans, the railway hasn't come yet."
Obama wants to invest in "cutting-edge research and technology" like the new advanced battery manufacturing industry. It also means investing in transportation and communication networks that "move goods and information as fast as possible."
NMU is setting a needed trend, he said. The University worked with various companies to build a high-speed, next-generation wireless network with six people in only four days, without raising tuition. Over time, nearby towns retrofit their towers with new equipment to expand their network so schools (some as far as 30 miles away), first responders and city government could use it.
Police officers can access crime databases in their cars. Firefighters can download blueprints on the way to a burning building. Public works officials can save money by monitoring pumps and equipment remotely.
"Today, this is one of America's most connected universities, and enrollment is near the highest it's been in 30 years," Obama said.
The President twice commented on how "pretty" Marquette was and how nice the people are. He received applause from the crowd at NMU both times.
According to the pool report, sunny skies and subzero temperatures greeted Obama as he stepped off Air Force One at Sawyer International Airport near Marquette this morning.
Brisk winds blew across the runway as Marquette Mayor John Kivela greeted the President and U.S. Sen. Carl LEVIN (D-Detroit). The President moved across the tarmac to greet invited guests behind a barricade, including some county government officials and staff.
Several of those in the smiling crowd greeted the president, with cameras snapping pictures.
"Welcome Mr. President," one man said. "Thanks for coming to the U.P."
The president was in a winter coat, no gloves, no hat and his warm trademark smile.
A group of local press reporters stood on a flat bed stage, filming the arrival.
After the greetings were finished, the President got into his black vehicle with the presidential seal and the motorcade headed north about 17 miles to downtown Marquette.
Along M-553, police had blocked and manned every side road and well-wishers held signs, American flags and waved, smiled and yelled. There were snowmobilers at trailheads and scores of schoolchildren out in the cold.
In downtown Marquette, the President's motorcade stopped at 12:11 p.m. along Washington Street at Doncker's candy shop and eatery where he was able to spend a few minutes signing copies of one of his books and taking a few minutes to greet locals, including the business owners and counter staff.
There were also some in the crowd from the Chicago area.
"You're my homeys," the President said.
He shook hands with some of the diners and signed a couple paperback copies of his book, "The Audacity of Hope."
President Obama inquired about Doncker's Obama Burger. The woman behind the counter suggested a vegetarian option and Obama told her he wasn't going there.
Then he ordered a sandwich of some sort that he thought would not be as sloppy as the Obama Burger because, as he noted, he still has a speech to deliver.
The woman behind the counter showed him some dark and milk chocolate caramels.
"I'm going to have to get one of these," Obama said. "Nice way to bribe me."
Back out on West Washington Street, there were many people lined up and even in storefront windows, trying to get a look at the President. One woman with foil still in her hair, came out into the street from a salon.
Security kept much of the crowd at a safe distance across the street. The President emerged from the candy shop and cheers erupted.
The motorcade then headed to NMU along Lakeshore Boulevard. There he was able to participate in a brief demonstration of the distance learning and WiMax technology used by NMU students and others.
Two NMU students and a professor were on hand to demonstrate. The 4G technology allows communications to almost 40 miles from the NMU campus.
The President spoke with students from Negaunee and Powell Township via the television screens set up on campus. The Negaunee students were high school students, while those from Powell Township were middle school students.
Minutes later, the President spoke to an excited crowd of invited guests, including many NMU students, at the Vandament Center on campus.
U.S. Sen. Debbie STABENOW (D-Lansing) wrote in a statement that "we are so proud that President Obama saw firsthand what we already know about Marquette . . . (it) is the perfect example of a community that can out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build anyone in the world."
Gov. Rick SNYDER said all Michiganders can take "great pride" in the recognition earned by NMU and the communities of Marquette County.
"Their partnership to expand high-speed wireless internet services through NMU's WiMAX network wisely recognizes the critical need to enhance online availability in the 21st Century," he said. "This cutting-edge approach benefits students and families while providing an essential tool that drives business development."
Snyder said Obama is right to highlight this initiative as a model of cooperation and innovation.
"At the state level, we are working aggressively to provide additional online and self-service alternatives for Michigan residents," Snyder said. "Expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula complements our efforts and provides welcome conveniences to U.P. customers."