Obama Initiative Would Double Broadband Spectrum
President Obama signed an initiative to nearly double the amount of
available commercial and federal broadband spectrum for mobile devices,
the White House reported. In a planned speech to the New America
Foundation, a nonprofit, post-partisan think tank, White House economic
adviser Lawrence Summers is expected to provide further details on the
plan, which would release 500MHz of federal and commercial spectrum
over a 10-year period.
The Presidential Memorandum is part of the broader approach to free up spectrum that also includes legislation to facilitate the transition. Administration has no official estimate of the auction revenues from this plan. The actual amount will depend on effective implementation and additional design details, but based on past auctions, some analysts believe the revenue potential could reach in the tens of billions of dollars.
Some estimates indicate that the next five years there will be an increase in wireless data of between 20 and 45 times 2009 levels, reflecting the increasing use of smartphones, netbooks, and other wireless devices. The four-point plan from the Obama administration tackles issues such as providing the tools to allocate spectrum, enabling spectrum to be put to the best use and using auction profits for deficit reduction programs and infrastructure investment.
Reuters reported excerpts from Summers' speech where he said the initiative would "nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum available to unleash the innovative potential of wireless broadband" while adding job growth and encouraging private sector investment. The official told Reuters most of the spectrum to be auctioned off would be designated for mobile usage and profits from the auction would go toward building a "nationwide mobile broadband network for public safety."
The announcement comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is struggling to convince major broadband providers such as AT&T and Verizon to agree to a re-regulating of the broadband industry. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's chief of staff, Edward Lazarus, scheduled closed-door meetings with industry leaders last week. The telecommunications industry has expressed concern that regulation could strangle growth and innovation and hamper the U.S. economy.
According to a recent study, GDP can increase $7 to $10 for every dollar invested in mobile wireless broadband networks. The White House reported wireless providers directly employ more than 268,000 people, a number that has grown about 6 percent year-over-year for the last four years, and a government release concerning the memorandum said the mobile wireless broadband generates "huge productivity gains" to the U.S. economy: Some estimate that those benefits are valued at $28 billion per year and rising, with combined mobile wireless voice and broadband productivity gains set to reach $427 billion annually by 2016.