State of the Union 2014: Obama’s thoughts on tech

The central technology-related issue facing the Obama administration may be the NSA surveillance scandal, but at his sixth State of the Union address, the President chose to deal with less controversial tech subjects: broadband in schools, the creation of new tech manufacturing hubs and reform of the troubled U.S. patent system.

Obama actually opened the speech by describing a “tech entrepreneur [flipping] on the lights in her tech startup” as a way to highlight 8 million new jobs created in the U.S. in the past four years, though is actual tech policy announcements only came later in the address.


The President announced an initiative to launch six new high-tech manufacturing hubs this year as part of an effort to keep the building of technology in the U.S. along with its design and development. The initiative will mirror two hubs already created in Raleigh, N.C., and Youngstown, Ohio, where local businesses are linked to research universities. Obama didn’t say where the new manufacturing centers would be located.

Last year, Obama announced a program to extend broadband access to 99 percent of schools over four years, and on Tuesday he said the administration is working with the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon(s vz), Sprint(s s), Apple(s aapl) and Microsoft(s msft) to fund such a project. According to the White House, details of these “philanthropic partnerships” will be released in coming weeks and will help connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students with wireless and wireline broadband in the next two years.

Finally Obama called out the broken patent system in the U.S., asking that Congress to pass a patent reform bill that keep businesses “focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.” Gigaom’s Jeff John Roberts wrote about the potential impact of such new legislation in a separate post.