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FCC Commissioner Attwell Baker Calls For More Efficient Use Of Spectrum

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WASHINGTON, December 4, 2009 - A top government official focused on the need to improve the allocation of spectrum for future broadband expansion during a telecommunications conference on Thursday.

“The United States needs a comprehensive approach that expands upon proven flexible, market-oriented policies that facilitate spectrum access, wireless innovation and competition,” said FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker during a keynote address (PDF) at the Phoenix Center’s Annual Telecom Symposium.

“Our policy should achieve two overarching objectives: first, make the best use of the spectrum that is available today and, second, get as much additional spectrum into the market as possible to meet the current and future demands of wireless consumers.”

Attwell Baker said that with an increasing number of Americans accessing the internet through mobile devices such as smart phones and netbooks, or mini laptop computers, the use and efficient allocation of spectrum is going to be crucial. Currently only 23 percent of Americans use the web for mobile communications but within the 18 to 25 age range 93 percent use the mobile web on a daily basis, she continued.

Baker encouraged the creation of a secondary market for spectrum. But she acknowledged that currently, such a market is constrained due to a lack of information.

By stimulating this secondary market, Baker said that spectrum could be more efficiently allocated.

In order to create and foster this market, she suggested the creation of a searchable database that would inventory current spectrum allocation.

While Congress has acted to encourage this inventory, both the FCC and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration do not have the authority to conduct one or ask for one to be conducted, Baker added.

In order to foster broadband expansion through spectrum policy, Baker said the spectrum management plan needs to be updated. The current plan was constructed under former FCC Chairman Michael Powell; it does not take into account the recent explosion of the mobile web and wireless connectivity services such as WiMax, as well as third and fourth generation mobile technology, including the Long-term Evolution (LTE) standard, she said.

The new plan needs to look at both short- and long-term policy goals and the creation of the plan needs to be done in a transparent manner, continued Baker.

The commissioner also called for the creation of a clear regulatory framework for the mobile web and a policy plan for innovation for spectrum and the mobile web.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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