Obama to streamline approval of Internet networks

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The order will also require the Transportation Department to adopt a "dig once" policy, meaning that construction teams should include the pipes that house Internet cable when they build new roads. It is more expensive to dig up a road to lay fiber than to create the channel for it when the road is first built.

Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) have long pushed for the federal government to adopt a "dig once" policy, and both lawmakers released statements on Wednesday applauding the administration's announcement.

"Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work," President Obama said in a statement. "By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed and our citizens become more engaged." 

The White House also on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit initiative called U.S. Ignite, which will work to coordinate the development of new applications for use on ultrafast Internet networks. 

A few communities around the country are already building networks capable of transferring data up to 100 times faster than traditional broadband networks. 

U.S. Ignite will work with the government and private companies to develop new technologies that will work on the ultrafast networks to improve services in education, health, transportation, clean energy and other areas. 

—Updated at 2:45 p.m.