White House releases money for small-satellite broadband, smart cities

The government will release $65 million for smart-city technology, $30 million for small satellites

The U.S. government will invest tens of millions of dollars in smart-city technologies and in small-satellite broadband as part of a US$300 million package focused on innovation.

The package of new investments, announced Thursday, will include $65 million in government funding and $100 million in private funding for smart cities technologies. Two new government grant programs will focus on easing traffic congestion and on creating new on-demand mobility services, including smartphone-enabled car sharing, demand-responsive buses, and bike-sharing.

"From automated vehicles to connected infrastructure to data analytics, technology is transforming how we move around our country, and some of the most exciting innovation is happening at the local level," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The White House, cohosting an innovation frontiers conference in Pittsburgh Thursday, also announced $50 million in funding to help drive the development of small satellites, with new broadband services one possible use.

In upcoming weeks, federal agencies will announce investments and additional steps they will take to drive adoption of so-called smallsats for commercial, scientific, and national security uses, the White House said. More details will be coming soon, a White House spokeswoman said.

"Advancing smallsat technology and adoption could, for example, allow companies to provide ubiquitous high-speed Internet connectivity and offer continuously updated imagery of the Earth," the White House said in a press release.

A handful of companies are already exploring the use of small satellites to deliver broadband.

It's important for the White House to push innovation, President Barack Obama wrote in a Wired.com article.

"While we’ve made great progress, there’s no shortage of challenges ahead: Climate change. Economic inequality. Cybersecurity. Terrorism and gun violence. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and ­antibiotic-resistant superbugs," he wrote.

The U.S. needs its scientists, teachers, grassroots activists, programmers and other citizens to help solve these problems, he added.

"And most important, we need not only the folks at MIT or Stanford or the NIH but also the mom in West Virginia tinkering with a 3-D printer, the girl on the South Side of Chicago learning to code, the dreamer in San Antonio seeking investors for his new app, the dad in North Dakota learning new skills so he can help lead the green revolution," he wrote.

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