Federal Communications Commission

Connecting America’s Stories: Smart Spectrum is Good Business

June 17th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

This is the second in a series of three blogs about spectrum and the National Broadband Plan.

It may not be immediately obvious, but the explosion of mobile devices into the marketplace is making spectrum the lifeblood of mobile innovation and investment. 

The National Broadband Plan points out that

The contribution of wireless services to overall gross domestic product grew over 16% annually from 1992 to 2007 compared with less than 3% annual growth for the remainder of the economy. (Ch. 5, p. 75)

Getting spectrum right is an integral part of our economic recovery efforts. If American businesses are going to grow over the coming decades, industry and public groups must work together to allocate the limited spectrum that we have.

Check out this video where members of the team talk about the changing needs and ideas for allocating spectrum for the benefit of American businesses and consumers.

John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Co-lead of Spectrum team on the National Broadband Task Force

Looking forward, we see mobile broadband just being this huge innovation driver of the American economy.  It combines the two big trends of the last 20 years in telecommunications: One of which was broadband, and the other is mobility.  And it puts them together into one service, and you start to see now, with, the iPhone and the Android phones and the iPad, these new devices that bring a computing experience into your pocket.

Only certain bands on the spectrum have the properties that make them useful for mobile broadband.  And the more people who get and use mobile devices, and the more apps that are created for them, the more congested the airwaves will get.  In order to accommodate increased traffic, the FCC plans to partner with businesses and communities in order to secure the needed spectrum for mobile broadband.

The Broadband Plan calls for 500 megahertz of spectrum to be made available for broadband use over the next 10 years, and 300 megahertz over the next 5 years.  It recommends that this happen in a number of ways.  John Leibovitz explains one:

The idea is to have win-win scenarios – the idea is that rather than having combative proceedings where one person is having their spectrum taken away or being asked to move, instead we create a mechanism that gives them an economic incentive to voluntarily offer up their spectrum, so that they can move somewhere else to provide their service in a different band, so that someone else who may value the spectrum more highly than the current user can move in and nobody does it against their will. 

Everybody gets part of the economic benefit – especially the American people get the economic benefit of making sure the spectrum is used for whatever purpose is the most appropriate given where technology is and what types of services people are using.

When we asked you for your stories about broadband and how it affects your lives every day, we heard from across the nation how much you depend on mobile devices to live your lives, and how much limited bandwidth and high cost affects you.  Dan is just one example.

Dan in Taneytown, Maryland

With more and more of my college classes requiring access to online material and videos, it's getting tougher to complete work and research in a relative time period. While many other Americans enjoy DSL or Cable, I'm stuck with the options of dial-up or overly expensive mobile broadband with a pathetic five gigabyte cap. My community and many other rural communities in the US are being left in the dust to wither while the rest of the country blossoms.

It will not be simple to reallocate spectrum so that it is most beneficial for our economy and our people, but it is essential. 

John Leibovitz

No one owns the spectrum except for the American people.  Spectrum is licensed by the FCC, but the rights to the spectrum belong to the American people.  So it’s important that people are able to understand, what are the important decisions that are being made with this resource, which in some situations can be valued at tens of billions of dollars.  It’s a very valuable resource and our job is to make sure that it’s being used in a way that respects the value to the American public and tried to promote economic growth and innovation going forward.

With the launch of the National Broadband Plan, a website called Spectrum Dashboard was launched to finally make all of the information about who has what spectrum where easy to browse and available to anyone who wants to see it.  Check out the interactive map feature and learn more about who has the spectrum in your area.

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