We are a nation dependent on wireless broadband. For personal communications, for internet-based applications and for business operations, wireless broadband services are wildly popular among students, employees, businesses and families. Broadband wireless is available to 99.5% of the U.S. population, according to the FCC’s sixteenth report on wireless competition.
Currently deployed wireless broadband is being used at 80% of its capacity, and new applications for its use will push utilization higher, leading to congestion that will thwart public needs. The FCC estimates 275 megahertz of new spectrum will be needed by 2014 to continue this success story. As a bonus each new 10 megahertz of spectrum devoted to commercial broadband creates 7,000 new jobs.
The White House, Congress, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have each observed that more commercial spectrum is needed and should be made available by transferring spectrum from underuse in TV broadcast and from spectrum underused by government. In his National Wireless Initiative, President Obama affirmed that a total of 500 megahertz of spectrum will be transferred to commercial wireless broadband use. Sixty percent of the 500 megahertz destined toward broadband wireless is currently allocated to government.
So-called “D” blocks of spectrum totaling 63 megahertz will come from unused or underused TV licenses. The FCC expects broadband operators will bid for those more than the $10 billion reserve price it set. Some of the license fees will be used to build a first responder network, called FirstNet, with other proceeds going to the Treasury and some going to help relocate applications of those who gave up the spectrum.
Blocks beyond the first 63 megahertz, should be readied quickly because haste is in the public’s interest. Executive leadership may be needed to ready the 300 megahertz in government hands for transfer, but it’s not too tough a challenge.
A fair, auction-based approach to allocate the spectrum has been identified and used before. The spectrum for reallocation is identified and the studies and the press conferences are done. Now, the urgent next step is to schedule and run the auctions.
Alan Daley writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information, visit www.theamericanconsumer.org.