White House backs FCC spectrum strategy

Obama supports call to double amount of wireless spectrum

Obama hearts wireless broadband, but what about broadcast?

The White House is throwing support behind the FCC's proposal to reclaim 500 MHz of federal and commercial spectrum to stimulate mobile and fixed broadband.

The Presidential Memorandum signed by President Obama on Monday calls for legislation to double the amount of wireless spectrum by providing incentives for more efficient spectrum use and identify sources of spectrum from public and private sources, including U.S. broadcasters.

More details of the memorandum are expected to be provided by Lawrence Summers, the director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy, in a speech before the New America Foundation.

The administration and the FCC predicate the proposals to reallocate spectrum on a spectrum crunch and that the availability of more wireless spectrum will foster job creation, innovation and growth.

"The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind," the memorandum said. "Expanded wireless broadband access will trigger the creation of innovative new businesses, provide cost-effective connections in rural areas, increase productivity, improve public safety, and allow for the development of mobile telemedicine, telework, distance learning, and other new applications that will transform Americans' lives."

Not everyone in Washington agrees that there is a crunch, or that the government should step in on an industry that has boomed during the past decade.

Broadcasters are particularly concerned and fear that to voluntarily relinquish any more spectrum would hinder the ability to broadcast in HD, or provide mobile digital TV now in the early stages of rollout. Only a year ago, broadcasters turned back 108 MHz of spectrum to the government with the transition to digital TV. The additional spectrum, auctioned to Verizon and AT&T, has not been deployed.

"Expanding broadband is important, and broadcasters will work constructively with policymakers to help them attain that objective," said Dennis Wharton, executive vp of the National Association of Broadcasters. "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.

"We also believe the first priority of Congress ought to be passage of spectrum-inventory legislation that identifies fallow spectrum or companies that may be 'warehousing' the airwaves."
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