Plus, how the Trump administration is looking to boost similar projects as part of infrastructure reform.
One of the great mysteries this July was who, exactly, gave Elon Musk “verbal governmental approval” to build his ultra-fast, underground tunnel between New York City and Washington, D.C.
On Monday, though, we received something of an answer: It may have been Reed Cordish, one of the top tech advisers to President Donald Trump. Thing is, he explained to Recode during an interview, it wasn’t exactly a formal green light.
“I think that I was the culprit,” Cordish told me at the event, hosted by the Internet Association, in San Francisco. “As I said to Elon after, I think what you heard was ‘verbal government excitement.’”
In clarifying the mystery of that miscommunication, though, Cordish also sought to offer new details as to the White House’s future plans for infrastructure reform. The package could include more than $200 billion in new government funds — along with efforts to lessen regulation specifically so that moonshot projects, like Musk’s so-called Boring Company, can become reality.
“In essence, we’ve had the same technology for tunneling, it hasn’t changed in the last fifty years. And what Elon has done is he’s challenged his best engineers to reimagine that approach,” Cordish said.
“And we are working with them every day,” Cordish continued, “to get government out of the way.” Cordish specifically said he’s been “talking to [Musk] and his company every day about the Boring Company.”
Musk, for his part, publicly and sharply sought to rebuke the White House earlier this year, tweeting he would no longer advise President Donald Trump because of his position on climate change.
But it seems his corporate representatives, at least, have maintained an open line of communication — a reflection there’s plenty at stake in the nation’s capital even for Trump’s critics in Silicon Valley.
“Those became too politicized and no longer could be a frank exchange of ideas where we were able to learn,” Cordish told Recode when asked about those and other rifts.
Otherwise, Cordish stressed that the White House hoped to incentivize broadband providers as part of its forthcoming infrastructure package, with an eye on investing more heavily in hard-to-reach rural areas. That could include, he said, some new seed money in the form of federal spending.
Cordish also revealed that the bill could include provisions to modernize the U.S. workforce, including new efforts to train students how to code. Such a commitment comes weeks after Trump signed a presidential directive setting aside more federal dollars for computer science classes and programs.
And Cordish emphasized the proposal — currently a 70-page statement of principles — would seek to reward cities and states that raise their own cash for infrastructure investments.
“Those revenues can be levies or user fees or taxes or tolls,” he said. “If we offer a government incentive to do so, that will give them the political courage to do what’s right.”
The White House plans to proceed with infrastructure reform as soon as Congress completes its current debate over tax reform, Cordish said, perhaps as soon as early 2018.