Obama: Broadband, computers part of stimulus package

Rolling out broadband and putting more computers in schools will be pieces of a massive economic recovery package proposed by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, he has announced.

Obama, in a radio address Saturday, told listeners that he will push for the largest government-funded infrastructure program since the Interstate highway system in the 1950s as a way to stimulate the struggling U.S. economy. Obama’s radio address was short on details, but the program could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Obama’s plan will include funds to make public buildings more energy efficient, repair roads and bridges and modernize schools. His plan for schools is to repair aging buildings, make them energy efficient and install new computers in classrooms, he said. “To help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools,” Obama said in the address.

The plan will also include rolling out broadband, both to places where it isn’t available and to health-care facilities, Obama said. It is “unacceptable” that the U.S. ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), he said.

“Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m president — because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world,” he said.

Some conservative think tanks have disputed the OECD’s numbers.

Obama also called for hospitals to be connected to each other through the Internet. Modernizing the U.S. health-care system “won’t just save jobs, it will save lives,” he said. “We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.”

Free Press, a media reform advocacy group, praised Obama for including broadband in the stimulus package.

“In our 21st-century society, having a connection to a fast and affordable Internet is no longer a luxury — it’s a public necessity,” Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, said in a statement. “Right now, more than 40 percent of American homes are not connected to broadband. This digital divide isn’t just costing us our ranking as global Internet leader — its costing us jobs and money at a time when both are urgently needed.”

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