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Transportation and Communications Panel Reviews Mayoral Priorities with DOT Secretary, FCC Chairman

By Kevin McCarty
January 30, 2012

Members of the Conference of Mayors Transportation and Communications Committee engaged U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on key issues before the nation's mayors at a January 18 session during the 80th Winter Meeting.

In opening the session, Committee Vice Chair Oak Park Mayor David Pope praised LaHood for his leadership on behalf of the nation's mayors and thanked him for responding to key local transportation priorities.

In his remarks, LaHood said, "If Congress wants to put America to work, then pass the transportation bill." Citing delays in passing a timely renewal of the federal aviation law, including programs administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he noted that, "We are operating under our 22nd extension." Citing these as priorities for the mayors, LaHood said, "These two bills will do more to put America to work than any other action that could be taken."

LaHood also talked about the 2012Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant competition, which will soon provide more than $500 million toward improving national, regional and local transportation infrastructure. Promising that this fourth round of the TIGER grant process could get underway by the end of January, LaHood told the mayors that "you know the value of these TIGER grants."

With Pope presiding during questions and answers, the Transportation Secretary responded to mayors on high'speed rail, the Congressional impasse on transportation legislation and local transportation priorities, including mayoral interest in the new starts and small starts program. On the latter issue, LaHood promised that proposed rules would soon be released to respond to respond to mayoral concerns in this area (released January 25, 2012).

FCC Chairman Genachowski Touts Cities' Role in Telecommunications

Genachowski shared his vision with mayors on how to accelerate the job creation and economic potential of existing and emerging telecommunication technologies and services.

Genachowski outlined four key elements of his strategy to ensure adequate bandwidth for the future as well as measures to facilitate broadband deployment and adoption, telling the mayors that, "We need to have an effective partnership" in a world that is increasingly "hyper-connected." He explained that jobs and economic develop will follow "where capital and investment goes."

Underscoring the vast opportunities that follow the accelerated deployment of these technologies and capacities, he said, "We want cities to be at the center of this."

In advancing this agenda, the Chairman said that this is about building a "strategic broadband advantage" and that we need to have "ubiquitous broadband everywhere." He also talked in some detail about the need to unleash spectrum, noting that, "While we were behind Europe in 3G, we will lead the world in 4G."

For cities, he talked about the concept of broadband innovation zones, where cities with their universities and others take a leadership role in "piloting the next generation of these technologies." In concluding his remarks, he talked about a number of initiatives that are making broadband more affordable, targeting low-income youth and their families, recognizing mayors for what they are doing and urging them to do more to accelerate broadband adoption. Conference of Mayors Committee on Communications Vice Chair Tallahassee Mayor John Marks facilitated a dialogue with Genachowski, following his opening remarks.