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Update: White House backs federal plan for more airwaves for smartphones, wireless broadband

The Obama administration announced Monday that it will double the amount of airwaves available for mobile broadband to meet the demands of smartphones and other wireless gadgets expected to explode in popularity.

Over the next decade, President Obama pledged to make available 500 megahertz of radiowaves for high-speed wireless carriers. The commitment backs a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to auction off broadcasters' and government spectrum to commercial carriers that envision their networks running home appliances, automobile applications, tablet computers and other wireless devices.

White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said in a speech outlining the president's plan that freeing up more spectrum will spur economic growth through auctions of the airwaves and investment in wireless networks and technology.

"Opening up spectrum will create the foundation for new private-sector investment and economic activity . . . that would not have been possible without the coordinating and organizing role of government," Summers said in his remarks at the New America Foundation.

He said auction proceeds will go toward a wireless network for emergency first responders. Other government spending from those proceeds will go to projects such as high-speed light rail. The federal government is looking at several agencies -- including the Defense Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- for spectrum, as well as TV broadcasters.

It could be years before those airwaves are available, and pursuading broadcasters to give up spectrum has been a challege. The FCC has proposed that 280 megahertz of spectrum come from broadcasters and other sources, 120 of which would come from broadcasters. The other 220 megahertz would come from the federal government’s holdings managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Dennis Wharton, vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, said broadcasters are willing to work constructively with regulators on federal spectrum plans. But he also called for the government to focus first on fallow airwaves, as opposed to those held by broadcasters who want to use spectrum for mobile television.

"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," Wharton said.

Summers said the White House will work with Congress to pass legislation to auction television broadcasters' spectrum that will also allow broadcasters to share in the proceeds. And broadcasters won't be forced to sell spectrum, he said.

"The administration's strong actions on wireless broadband will move us significantly towards sustainable economic success, robust investment, and global leadership in innovation," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 28, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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Can someone please ask Mr. Summers just what is "high speed light rail?" Apparently he is working on something that no one has ever heard of which ought to be of interest to the pertinent appropriation comittees.
Robert Pulliam
Tubular Rail Inc.
Houston TX

Posted by: robertphou | June 28, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

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