President Obama is signing an executive order today committing the government to provide 500 MHz worth of new broadband spectrum. With the official order from the White House, the government will begin identifying specific sources of the new spectrum; they will come from both the public and private sectors, including television broadcast and mobile satellite facilities.
“The President’s plan will nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum available to unleash the innovative potential of wireless broadband,” says Larry Summers, director of Obama’s National Economic Council. “This initiative will catalyze private sector investment, contribute to economic growth, and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
This is policy is a win three times over. It creates prosperity and jobs while at the same time raising revenue for public purposes like public safety and increasing our ability to compete internationally.
At their root, these initiatives involve the government acting as a catalyst for private sector investments and growth.
In the tradition of transcontinental railroad and the land grant colleges and universities, opening up spectrum will create the foundation for new private sector investment and economic activity that would not have been possible without the coordinating and organizing role of government.
The CTIA, the trade group for the country’s wireless companies, applauded the directive. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) supports the notion that more spectrum is needed, but it does not alter the organization’s belief that the D Block should be reallocated to public safety.
The NAB, which believes they should have squatters rights to public spectrum at no cost is circumspect:
We appreciate FCC assurances that further reclamation of broadcast television spectrum will be completely voluntary, and we’re convinced that America can have both the finest broadband and broadcasting system in the world without jeopardizing the future of free and local TV service to tens of millions of viewers.
Some may argue that “free” unlicensed Wi-Fi stimulated one of the biggest booms in recent history. Perhaps more “free” spectrum ought to be set aside.
The AWS III band (2155-2175 MHz) is a case in point. This portion of the band was orphaned as an unpaired 20 MHz chunk. M2Z proposed free nationwide WiMAX service if the FCC would give them the spectrum. But the FCC, under Kevin Martin, killed the idea as favoritism towards one company. The current FCC wants to sell it.
The FCC and the Obama administration seem to think White Spaces can supplement the clogged WiFi band. Maybe they’re right.
But just because the cellular companies are willing to give the government billions for public spectrum, doesn’t make it right. Forcing most citizens to pay expensive fees for wireless access has a cost attached to it. Democracy.
Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC: Sat Freqs for 4G, Broadband Regulation Backlash, FCC Issues Inquiry on Broadband Regs, FCC Reports on Wireless Competition, The National Broadband Plan, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, and The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?