WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010On Monday the President announced that he has instructed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to make 500 MHz of spectrum available over the next 10 years. This release of spectrum is one of the first direct implementations of recommendations made by the National Broadband Plan. “America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum” said President Obama.
The memorandum instructs the NTIA and the FCC to identify the specific bands which will be released by October 1st. This new spectrum will then be used explicitly for broadband expansion, for either fixed or wireless solutions. Additionally the NTIA will work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Defense along with other agencies to develop spectrum sharing technologies.
In support of this new initiative, the Director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers, gave a speech at the New America Foundation. During the speech Summers gave historical examples of how the United States has worked with private industry to spur investment and expand the economy specifically he cited the expansion of the railroad. He then went onto explain how the impending spectrum crunch will stifle innovation due to the lack of available spectrum for use by devices such as smartphones, or smart meters.
“[S]pectrum is becoming increasingly crowded. In recent years, the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks has grown at over 250 percent per year. By some estimates, the next five years will see an increase in wireless data of 20 to 45 times 2009 levels.” Summers said.
Summers then went onto to announce that the released spectrum will be sold via an auction whose profits will be used to help fund public safety networks. By using an auction the government is able to ensure that the new spectrum holders will use the spectrum and not just hold it in reserve. Additionally the government is able to obtain billions of dollars for a project which desperately needs funding.
“The first claim on auction revenues from the freed-up spectrum is to support the creation of a nationwide, interoperable, broadband network for public safety – originally recommended by the 9/11 Commission. The long-overdue shift to modern cellular systems for voice and data will both strengthen public safety and, over time, may actually save money” said Summers.
FCC Chairmen Julius Genachowski said of today’s announcement: “The initiatives endorsed today will spur economic growth, promote private investment, and drive U.S. global leadership in broadband innovation. Spectrum is the oxygen of wireless, and the future of our mobile economy depends on spectrum recovery and smart spectrum policies.”
The announcement by the president has received wide ranging support from industry groups to consumer advocacy organizations.
CTIA, the wireless association, released a statement which said, in part, “By making spectrum available for auction, the Administration will enable the wireless industry to invest billions of dollars to purchase the licensed spectrum, and billions more to build and upgrade the networks that fuel our ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation. This announcement is a win for all Americans as it will drive innovation, investment and job creation, while at the same time providing much needed revenue not only for the U.S. Treasury, but also for a nationwide interoperable Public Safety network. By making spectrum available for auction, the Administration will enable the wireless industry to invest billions of dollars to purchase the licensed spectrum, and billions more to build and upgrade the networks that fuel our ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation. This announcement is a win for all Americans as it will drive innovation, investment and job creation, while at the same time providing much needed revenue not only for the U.S. Treasury, but also for a nationwide interoperable Public Safety network.”
Free Press also supported the announcement but felt that the FCC needs to go further in their oversight of spectrum. “While today’s announcement is commendable, additional spectrum alone will not fix a broken market. For consumers to realize the full benefit of this reallocation of our public airwaves, the FCC and Congress must take steps to promote competition in the mobile broadband industry. Congress, the White House and the FCC should commit to dedicating a substantial portion of reallocated spectrum to unlicensed usage, in addition to auctioned spectrum. The FCC should also reinstate spectrum caps or tighter screens, impose and enforce build-out requirements to ensure that companies do not warehouse newly acquired spectrum, and move forward with handset exclusivity, data roaming and other policy problems facing consumers in the mobile broadband market.”