Obama administration seeks more wireless spectrum
President Barack Obama today issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to make 500 MHz of spectrum available during the next decade for mobile and fixed wireless broadband communications.
“America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum,” Obama wrote in the memorandum. “The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind.”
Echoing the FCC’s national broadband plan released in March, the presidential memorandum directs the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC to work cooperatively to identify and clear 500 MHz of spectrum, which would almost double the amount of commercial spectrum available today. The two agencies are expected to complete a 10-year plan for the additional spectrum by Oct. 1, which is slightly more than three months away.
While the memorandum’s focus is on making spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed commercial uses that could help foster economic growth in the U.S., administration officials also noted that proceeds from the auction of the commercial spectrum should be invested in a much-anticipated national wireless broadband network for public safety.
“I am very encouraged by the administration’s announcement of support for using the auction proceeds to fund the construction of a public safety broadband network that leverages the power of commercially developed wireless technologies and networks,” Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau, said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with the administration, Congress and the public-safety community to turn this vision into a reality. Doing so is essential to meeting the goals of the 9/11 Commission to deliver robust broadband communications to America’s first responders.”
Public-safety officials have long been supportive of the notion that proceeds from spectrum auctions should be directed toward helping fund the proposed first-responder broadband network. Of course, most public-safety organizations are asking Congress to reallocate the 700 MHz D Block — currently scheduled for commercial auction next year—to public safety for that purpose.
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) supports the notion that more spectrum is needed to support the burgeoning consumer use of the mobile Internet, but it does not alter the organization’s belief that the D Block should be reallocated to public safety.
“I think that helps our position considerably, in that they seem to be on a fast track to bring up additional in other bands for commercial use,” Mirgon said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “I think it makes it much less urgent that they allocate the D Block to commercial, and I think it shows that commercial entities have other choices, whereas public safety does not. I think that indirectly supports our cause.”