MARQUETTE (WWJ) – An invite-only event brings President Barack Obama to Northern Michigan University Thursday afternoon. Mr. Obama wants 98 percent of the U.S. to have wireless access within five years – and WiFi is something that is spreading across the Upper Peninsula.


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A LIVE VIDEO stream of the President’s remarks is available at this link.

University spokesperson Kristi Evans says the president will highlight the school’s wireless network. “It’s the only WiMax network operated by a university in the United States. It brings broadband access to our students who live off campus, up to a 40-mile range in spots,” says Evans.

She adds that students are ready to see the president. “People are just thrilled that the president would make a visit to Northern Michigan University. And the event itself is geared primarily toward NMU students, so it will be a wonderful experience, and that’s something they can take with them long after they leave Northern,” says Evans.

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Amy Clickner, CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership, couldn’t be happier about Obama promoting his speedy wireless plan in Marquette. She adds, however, that the part of the U.P. that’s wireless is mostly in the shadow of Northern Michigan University, but that they’re very fortunate in the central Upper Peninsula. “You know we’re very connected, but again, looking at it from the whole upper peninsula, we need to be connected with all of our communities up here. For instance, the regional medical center is here and tele-medicine is really extremely important,” says Clickner.

Clickner admits that while the Upper Peninsula is known more for fall color and copper, times are changing. “In this day and age when people are choosing where they want to live and then making it work, we’re a perfect place to be. And having broadband access makes that possible for people to start a venture, expand what they’re doing here and choose to live here because it’s a great quality of life,” she says.

Overall, Clickner – like most people in town – is ready for Mr. Obama’s visit, noting that former president George W. Bush was the most recent president to make a stop in the U.P. during his re-election campaign in 2004. Before that, she says the last sitting president to visit the area is thought to have been William Howard Taft – a century ago.

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President Obama is scheduled to deliver his speech in Marquette at 1:15pm, Thursday. WWJ will have live coverage of the event.