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FCC chairman to call for sale of broadcaster spectrum to aid mobile users

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Tuesday morning that the agency will recommend to Congress that 500 megahertz of spectrum be freed up to meet the needs of mobile broadband users in the future. Much of that could come from broadcasters and other sources and would be auctioned for commercial use.

“Mobile data usage is not just growing, it is exploding,” Genachowski said in a speech at the New America Foundation. “The fact is, the U.S. is facing a looming spectrum crunch.”

Spectrum, or airwaves, is the oxygen of wireless phone networks, he said. Already, carriers like AT&T have said they were caught off guard by the demands that smart phones like the iPhone have placed on their wireless network. The company has said mobile data use on their network has increased by 5,000 percent in the past couple of years, according to Genachowski.

Mobile providers have pushed the FCC to bring more spectrum onto the market for commercial use. But broadcasters have argued that they need the airwaves so they can experiment with new technologies like mobile digital television to reinvent themselves as more Americans choose other options than broadcast television for their news and entertainment.

Genachowski said the 500 megahertz would largely come from broadcasters but on a voluntary basis. And once auctioned to wireless providers, broadcasters would get a cut of the proceeds. He also mentioned the importance of WiFi and other unlicensed spectrum to bring high-speed Internet to users.

The FCC will present the mobile spectrum recommendation as part of its national broadband plan due to Congress on March 17.

“Today’s announcements on spectrum are essential to the wireless industry’s ability to continue to provide and expand Americans’ access to broadband anywhere and anytime,” wireless trade group CTIA said in a release. “ 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.”

By Multiplatform Editor  |  February 24, 2010; 12:12 PM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC , Mobile  
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Next: Update: Kevin Martin, former FCC Chair, to fight against Comcast-NBCU


Y'know, that's funny: Ms. Kang neglects to mention that this is exactly Google's agenda, advocated in its comments to the FCC at Instead, she presents it as the FCC's idea. Again downplaying the lobbying of her sponsor Google.

Posted by: squirma | February 24, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Lessee, the broadcasters get free spectrum decades ago because it's in the "public interest, convenience, or necessity".

They sit on it, using only selected pieces in very profitable markets, and making billions off the pieces they use.

Now the FCC is going to take some of it back, auction it off, and give part of the auction proceeds to the broadcasters.

Such a deal...

Posted by: Casual_observer | February 25, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Brett Glass, you deranged homicidal idiot, this proposal looks alot more like CTIA's than what Google has written.

But what about the likely increase in good TV band unlicensed spectrum? Haven't you been crowing for more spectrum (free,but licensed-lite)?

Folks, watch out for Brett Glass. He is a very sick person.

Posted by: AmyBandini | February 25, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

This "AmyBandini" has a real chip on her shoulder. And her posts are vitriolic and libelous.

Posted by: squirma | February 26, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

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