The new social surplus will get this done
Gov't plans to double available wireless spectrum
Obama tells the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration to yield some spectrum to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration yet asks TV corporations to voluntarily sell some. This 2010 article is from the Associated Press, June 28.
by Joelle TesslerThe Obama administration is backing a plan to nearly double the space available on the airwaves for wireless high-speed Internet traffic to keep up with ever-growing demand for video and other cutting-edge applications on laptops and mobile devices.
President Barack Obama on Monday committed the federal government to freeing up an additional 500 megahertz of radio spectrum for broadband over the next 10 years, with much of that auctioned off to commercial wireless carriers. The wireless industry currently holds roughly 500 megahertz of spectrum, but hasn't put all of it to use yet.
The White House memorandum marks an official endorsement of one of the key proposals in the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband plan for bringing high-speed Internet access to all Americans. That plan, released in March, envisions wireless technology as a key way to make that happen -- particularly in rural areas where it may be uneconomical to build landline networks.
The FCC also wants to free up more airwaves to head off what it says could be a serious spectrum shortage -- particularly in dense, urban areas -- as more and more Americans use iPhones and other popular wireless devices to access everything from Facebook pages to driving directions while on the go.
The administration framed the matter as one of jobs and economic opportunity.
"America's future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum," Obama wrote in the presidential memorandum. "The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind."
The president's plan builds on existing efforts by the FCC, Congress, and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration to identify radio spectrum that can be reallocated for commercial broadband services.
The memorandum calls for the creation of a public inventory of all airwaves now in the hands of government and commercial users to ensure that this spectrum is being used efficiently. The effort would potentially identify some that can be repurposed.
The FCC has already said it hopes to persuade TV stations to give up roughly 120 megahertz of spectrum in exchange for a cut of auction proceeds. This proposal, which would require federal legislation, has raised serious concerns among television broadcasters. But the administration said Monday that it supports this approach so long as it is truly voluntary for broadcasters.
JJS: Even though the spectrum is part of nature -- not made by any humanís labor or capital -- and owned by the people, years ago the government delivered slices of spectrum to TV corporations not for a lot of money, not for a little money, but for free. Rather than worry about the feelings of unduly rich owners of networks and stations, our public officials should charge the owners full market value for their licenses. Letís do run government like a business and do charge as much as an asset is worth. Then, like any successful business, pay ourselves dividends from the profit.
The administration also said Monday that much of the spectrum will have to come from the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The president's memorandum directs federal agencies that currently use the airwaves to cooperate with the NTIA as it looks for more capacity for commercial broadband. It seeks funding and other tools to ensure these agencies can still meet their own communications needs.
In addition, the administration directs the NTIA to consult with other federal agencies on technology that would enable users to share spectrum. And it calls for the government to set aside some spectrum for free, unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi connections.
The administration is hoping to raise tens of billions of dollars by auctioning off more spectrum to commercial wireless carriers. Those proceeds would be used to reduce the deficit, invest in high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects, and build a wireless broadband network that would allow police officers, firefighters, and other emergency workers to communicate with one another.
The administration stopped short of taking sides in an acrimonious tussle between the FCC and public safety officers over a 10-megahertz block of spectrum freed up in last year's transition from analog to digital TV broadcasts. While the FCC wants to auction the spectrum off to the commercial sector, public safety officials insist they need it for their own broadband network.
JJS: The article did not make clear if the government intends to auction off permanent titles or temporary leases. Because whatís being auctioned is some nature, and nature is something we all have an equal right to, itíd be more equitable to auction off leases. Plus, the value of spectrum can go up tremendously, so the bottom line would be better for we the people, too, if government auctions temporary leases. Presently, according to some estimates, the value of the airwaves owned by the public but not recovered by the government could be as high as one trillion dollars per year. Some lucky few are getting way too much of what we all should share.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Taking stock of the nation's airwaves
Five companies control our inputs -- and thus our thoughts?
Digital TV Either a New Compact or a Huge Corporate Welfare Scheme
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