President Obama speaking in Knoxville, Tenn., on Jan. 9. (WADE PAYNE/European Pressphoto Agency)

President Obama is tossing out a few tech tidbits in his State of the Union speech. There aren't many surprises, but in one part of his address he mentions the Internet in the same breath as other forms of U.S. infrastructure. This is a bigger deal than you might think.

"21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet," Obama said Tuesday. "Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come."

Lumping the country's Internet onramps in with roads and bridges is a significant rhetorical move, laying a kind of governmental claim over these types of commercial conduits. It helps justify Obama's recent calls for new rules on Internet providers and his proposal that federal regulators have a role to play in helping cities build and sell their own Internet service.

Republicans in Congress are likely to agree with Obama on the Internet's importance, but expect them to reject his framing. Where Obama favors greater public investments in Internet infrastructure, the GOP is angling to restrict the government's authority to oversee broadband.