FCC Chief Previews Spectrum Recommendations

Broadband Data, Broadband Updates, Broadband's Impact, FCC, National Broadband Plan, NTIA, Universal Service, Wireless February 26th, 2010

, Deputy Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

Washington, February 26, 2010 – The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission this week previewed his agency’s spectrum recommendations in the FCC’s upcoming national broadband plan to be presented to Congress next month.

In Julius Genachowski’s statement titled “America’s 2020 Vision for Mobile Broadband,” he established that “no area of the broadband ecosystem holds more promise for transformational innovation than mobile.” He added that “without sufficient spectrum, we will starve mobile broadband of the nourishment it needs to thrive as a platform for innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

The chairman’s statement before the New America Foundation comes partially as a response to letters from hundreds of companies – including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Motorola and Verizon – warning that without more spectrum America’s global leadership in innovation and technology will be threatened.

To meet the goal of having the fastest, most robust and most extensive mobile broadband networks in the most innovative mobile broadband market in the world, Genachowski said the plan must: “Accelerate the broad deployment of mobile broadband by moving to recover and reallocate spectrum; update our 20th century spectrum policies to reflect 21st century technologies and opportunities; remove barriers to broadband buildout, lower the cost of deployment, and promote competition.”

The broadband plan will represent an important step in ensuring that the agency’s stewardship of the airwaves is future oriented and serves the goals of future innovation and investment. To accomplish this first step, the plan must seek to unleash more spectrum.

Genachowski then announced that through collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the national plan will set a goal of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum over the next decade. To achieve this goal, Genachowski wants to ensure that spectrum intended for the commercial marketplace flows to the uses the market values most.

The plan will propose a “Mobile Future Auction” that will permit existing spectrum licensees such as television broadcasters in spectrum starved markets, to voluntarily relinquish spectrum in exchange for a share of auction proceeds, or allow spectrum sharing and other efficiency measures.

“Now that I’ve mentioned broadcast spectrum” said Genachowski, “let me be clear: the recommendation is for a voluntary program.”

The chairman believes that the Mobile Future Auction will allow broadcasters to elect to participate in a mechanism that could save costs and effect a solution to one of the country most significant challenges. The plan targets broadcast spectrum because of the inherent value for mobile broadband locked in the broadcast TV bands (as much as $50 billion) and because this highly valuable spectrum allocated to broadcasters is not being used efficiently. Apparently this is true even after the digital transition. In the very largest cities only about 150 megahertz of every 300 allocated to broadcast television is being used.

The plan also aims to maximize the value of spectrum in bands such as the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) or Wireless Communications Service (WCS) by giving licensees the flexibility of using the spectrum for mobile broadband the option of voluntarily transferring the license to someone else who will.

“Vital elements of the commission’s charter are to ensure that, in exercising our responsibilities with respect to spectrum, we promote competition and ensure that spectrum use is in the public interest, and of course all spectrum policy decisions will be made with that in mind, “ stated Genachowski.

The National Broadband Plan additionally will encourage innovative uses of spectrum, including “opportunistic” uses to encourage the development of new technologies and new spectrum access models.

Genachowski remarked that “unlicensed spectrum for example, has been a proven test bed for emerging competition, injecting new investment and innovation into the marketplace and spawning new services and devices from Bluetooth to WiFi technology.”

He added: “New ideas such as databases that dynamically enable-or revoke- access to spectrum in particular times and places promise to change the way we think about spectrum.”

In pitching one of Commissioner Michael Copps’s ideas, the chairman added that the plan will include a recommendation to invest a sufficient amount into research and development to insure that the science behind spectrum access continues to advance.

In order to close the adoption gap, the plan proposes a creation of a Mobility Fund as part of broader Universal Service Reform.

Without increasing the size of the universal service fund, the plan will seek to provide one-time support for deployment of infrastructure enabling robust mobile broadband networks, to bring all states to a minimum level of mobile availability.

Finally, in order to improve mobile communications to first responders, the plan intends to develop the 700 MHz public safety broadband network to achieve interoperability. Genachowski assured that broadband plan will have a comprehensive public safety strategy of its own. The chairman mentioned that the goals of the plan will be achieved through public-private partnerships between public safety and commercial providers, including but not limited to 700MHz “D Block” commercial licensees. 


Throughout his statement, the chairman likened the National Broadband Plan to the Winter Olympics, where public servants spend months training and working, in an effort to win a gold medal for the United States by creating a plan to regain global leadership in broadband. He ended with the same comparison by saying that like the Olympics that only happen once every four years: “When you get your chance, you better make it count, because you don’t know when, or if, you’ll get another shot.”

CTIA – The Wireless Association President and CEO Steve Largent released a statement thanking Genachowski and his broadband team for their work on the National Broadband Plan and their recognition of the importance of wireless broadband.

“By proposing to free up 500 MHz of new spectrum for mobile broadband use, Chairman Genachowski has taken a tremendous step toward maintaining our worldwide mobile ecosystem leadership,” Largent said.

In his statement, the FCC chairman mentioned that “the costs of obtaining permits and leasing pole attachments and rights of way can amount to 20 percent of fiber deployment, which is necessary for wireless networks as well as wired networks. With our tower-sitting shot-clock order in November, the commission has already begun taking action to cut red tape, lower the costs of investment, and accelerate network deployments – but more needs to be done.”

Largent commended the chairman for his recognition of the importance of reducing such red tape and barriers to investment. He continued, “As we have said many times before, spectrum is our industry’s backbone that fuels the ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation for consumers and other industries such as mHealth, smart grids, and mLearning.”

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