Obama in Silicon Valley: Gov't Should Help Build Broadband Infrastructure Like It Helps Build Roads

June 7, 2013 - 1:59 PM

 

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama about to disembark from Air Force One at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on June 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - Speaking at a fundraising dinner held in Silicon Valley for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday night, President Barack Obama said that the government should play a critical role in creating the nation’s “broadband” infrastructure—a role similar to the one the government plays in building roads and bridges.

“[G]overnment has a critical role to play in funding science and research, in creating the infrastructure--not only the old infrastructure of roads and bridges and ports, but the new infrastructure of smartgrids and broadband,” Obama said.

Broadband is the medium through which many Americans now get Internet access delivered to their homes and businesses.

Obama made his remarks shortly before 8:00 p.m. Pacific time, and shortly after The Guardian and The Washington Post reported on a National Security Agency program—codenamed PRISM—that allowed the government to tap directly into the servers of major Internet companies such as Google, AOL, Yahoo, Skype and Facebook.

The fundraiser, which cost $32,400 per person, was held at the home of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that only 30 people attended this “intimate” event.

According to the official White House transcript of the president's speech there, Obama mentioned Khosla by first name and also mentioned only by first name someone named “Mark” and someone named “Steve.” The transcript does not specify whom the president meant by “Mark” and “Steve”--or clarify if he was referencing people who were actually in the room at the time. “Steve” was the first name of the tech-industry icon Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who died in 2011. “Mark” is the first name of tech-industry icon Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook.

(Khosla, the Los Angeles Times reported, has criticized Zuckerberg’s political advocacy group, Fwd.us—which is pushing for “comprehensive” immigration reform. “Will Fwd.us prostitute climate destruction & other values to get a few engineers hired & get immigration reform?" Khosla said in a Tweet.)

“How do we make sure that every single person in America has access to the platforms and the frameworks that they need so that if they’re willing to work hard they can succeed as well, the way Vinod succeeded, the way Mark succeeded, the way Steve succeeded, the way all of us in this room--so many of us who started with not too much--have been able to live out that American Dream,” Obama said to Khosla’s $32,400-per-plate dinner guests.

“In order for us to meet those challenges, though, we’ve got to have a functioning government,” said Obama. “This is not an argument that government can do it all.  It’s an argument that government has a critical role to play in funding science and research, in creating the infrastructure--not only the old infrastructure of roads and bridges and ports, but the new infrastructure of smartgrids and broadband.”

On Thursday, the Washington Post had posted a story about a National Security Agency program called “PRISM.” The Post said that “a career intelligence officer” provided the paper with “PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials” and that he did it “in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy.”

“The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now,” the Post reported. “It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: 'Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”