Arik Hesseldahl

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Austan Goolsbee Explains Obama’s Wireless Plan in Three Minutes (Video)

Austan Goolsbee is the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and in the video below, part of a regular series called “White House White Board,” he explains the National Wireless Initiative President Obama outlined in Michigan yesterday. (Has anyone thought to call this thing “ObamaNet” yet? If not, let me be the first.)

Goolsbee makes a compelling case at first. The top five Internet companies are all American companies. The internet sector employs a million people. Go America!

He then talks about the problem at hand: The number of Americans using 3G wireless connections doesn’t even place the country in the top five? What?

The solution? Spectrum auctions, for one thing. Goolsbee makes it sound as if getting to that point will be easy, when in fact it won’t. Most of the 500 MHz spectrum he’s talking about is in the hands of TV broadcasters who don’t really want to let it go without being compensated, and some don’t want to let it go at all, and so there are numerous questions about that.

He also skips over the questions around the FCC’s legal authority to reform the Universal Service Fund in such a way that it can be used to help pay for this. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has argued that the commission already has the legal authority to act on this without the need for Congress to pass a law granting it, though he’s been burned on similar questions before.

Goolsbee makes it all seem so simple, but you just know that this initiative, even if it ultimately becomes a reality, is in for a serious dose of political reality.