Obama Wants to Use WiFi to Cut the U.S. Budget Deficit

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed that the government auction off its portion of the wireless spectrum to private companies. He says the move would boost access to high-speed Internet and cut the federal budget deficit at the same time.

Speaking at Northern Michigan University, Obama said in his prepared remarks that the government could gain as much as $28 billion from the sales.

The proposal calls for the government to invest $5 billion into a so-called "Universal Service Fund" designed to ensure public broadband access, $10.7 billion to set up a wireless network for public safety, $3 billion for research and development of wireless technologies and $9.6 billion to pay down the deficit.

The auctions would enable businesses to provide Internet access to at least 98% of Americans -- up from almost 95% today -- within five years, Obama said.

The remarks follow up Obama's most recent State of the Union address, in which he vowed to make high-speed wireless access available to almost all Americans. Access to so-called "4G" technology, which is more than 10 times faster than current high-speed access systems, would help spur economic development while improving public safety, Obama said.