GE CEO couldn't close deal on cell phone, cites broadband woes

BOSTON Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:51pm EST

BOSTON Feb 26 (Reuters) - General Electric Co Chairman Jeff Immelt said Wednesday he could not close a business deal with one of the richest men in Africa on his cell phone because of poor broadband coverage at his home in Connecticut.

He offered the anecdote at business conference to underscore how he believes the United States has slipped in its infrastructure competitiveness.

"I told him, 'You're going to have to call me on my landline,'" Immelt said, drawing a round of laughs at the Harvard Business School conference on transportation and infrastructure. He did not name the African leader.

Immelt said the United States remains a world leader in freight and with its oil and gas infrastructure. He said the country is falling behind in air traffic control and passenger rail. He added that broadband isn't where it should be.

"Infrastructure creates winners and losers. We don't want to be a loser," Immelt said.

His brief remarks come as President Barack Obama unveils a $302 billion plan to fix the nation's roads and bridges.

Congress, meanwhile, faces a Sept 30 deadline to renew federal funding for transportation programs. One of those programs, the Highway Trust Fund that helps pay for road and bridge projects, is teetering on insolvency.

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