The U.S. government's new technology czar said on Thursday that new mobile phone applications could spur private investment in high-speed Internet connections, but Washington would also play a leadership role.
Aneesh Chopra, recently appointed the country's chief technology officer by U.S. President Barack Obama, said growing mobile Internet access, underscored by the popularity of Apple Inc's iPhone, provides more incentives for broadband infrastructure spending.
"If you were to ask investors how satisfied were you with your data wireless network investments pre-iPhone, my gut instinct tells me, they were not delivering the revenues that one would've expected to justify the investments they were making," he told reporters at a consumer electronics show in New York.
He noted that the iPhone is used more for Internet applications, including e-mail and messaging, than for making calls.
"If there are applications that will drive demand, the market will respond with a business case to invest," he said.
Speeds for broadband in the United States are among the slowest compared with industrialized nations such as Japan, France and Sweden, while prices are among the steepest, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
He said faster Internet speeds create business opportunities and that the government aims to create incentives for such investment.
"We can lead with public policy in this area the way that the consumer has led in the device world," said Chopra, previously the secretary of technology for Virginia.
The Obama Administration's nearly $800 billion stimulus package, signed earlier this year, included support for Internet technology spending.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to draw up a strategy to bring high-speed Internet to nearly half of the U.S. population that does not get it, many in low-income and rural areas.
Chopra also said he hoped for a speedy confirmation of Julius Genachowski, a former executive at IAC/Interactive and technology investor, as the new FCC chairman.
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