Early in President Obama's term in office, the identification of wireless spectrum was hailed as a major priority of the President, and a key component of the Obama administration's National Broadband Plan.
During the last half of President Obama's term the Administration has taken a number of steps to increase availability of spectrum for new and innovative applications. Indeed, more than two years ago the President directed Federal agencies to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband use, and significant progress has already been made toward this end. Some highlights:
According to a fact sheet issued with the release of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report entitled Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth, President Obama has done the following to advance wireless spectrum allocation for broadband deployment:
• June 2010: A Presidential Memorandum directed NTIA to identify 500 MHz of Federal and commercial spectrum that could be repurposed to wireless broadband within 10 years on either an exclusive or shared basis. NTIA convened the Policy and Plans Steering Group (PPSG), a highlevel interagency group representing Federal spectrum users, to address the challenge. NTIA also sought support from the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC), a Federal advisory committee of non-government spectrum experts.
• November 2010: Based on the focused efforts of the PPSG over just a few months, NTIA identified 115 MHz of spectrum that can be shared with commercial providers of wireless broadband within five years (1695 – 1710 MHz and 3550 – 3650 MHz). In a separate report, NTIA described its methodology for reviewing additional Federally-held spectrum bands to reach the 500 MHz goal within 10 years.
• April 2012: Following further analysis in consultation with the PPSG, NTIA identified an additional 95 MHz of “beachfront” spectrum in the 1755 band (1755 – 1850 MHz) that can be made available in stages, on a shared basis, starting in five years. NTIA also commenced review of an additional 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz range.
• May 2012: Under NTIA and CSMAC oversight, Federal agencies and the commercial wireless providers established five working groups to share information and analyses regarding Federal systems in the 1755 band and proposed commercial uses so as to expedite commercial entry. The pursuit of the 500 MHz goal is part of a broader array of Federal efforts to spur wireless innovation:
In February, the President signed legislation that: (1) expands the FCC’s authority to make more spectrum available via incentive auctions; (2) protects the FCC’s discretion to make spectrum available for innovative unlicensed uses, like wifi; (3) gives Federal agencies greater incentives to make spectrum available for commercial use by allowing them to use auction proceeds to invest in upgraded wireless capabilities; (4) will establish a wireless public safety network that will include excess spectrum capacity available for commercial use; (5) and will raise auction revenues for deficit reduction.
In addition to designing the upcoming incentive auctions, the FCC is pioneering the use of “White Space” spectrum sharing technology, removing regulatory barriers to the use of spectrum for broadband in several bands, and modernizing the rules for wireless backhaul by freeing up more spectrum to connect mobile networks to the Internet. The FCC also is reforming the universal service fund, including with the establishment of a mobility fund that will target support to wireless broadband.