NY Times: Broadband Availability to Expand

NY Times Story Broadband Availability to Expand

Selected quotes:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is seeking to nearly double the wireless communications spectrum available for commercial use over the next 10 years, an effort that could greatly enhance the ability of consumers to send and receive video and data with smartphones and other hand-held devices.

President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Monday that aims to make available for auction some 500 megahertz of spectrum that is now controlled by the federal government and private companies, administration officials said Sunday.

Specifically, the presidential memorandum will direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to identify federally controlled communications bands that can be made available within five years for exclusive or shared use by commercial companies.

Roughly 45 percent of the spectrum to be auctioned would come from federal government agencies that will be asked to give up allocations that they are not using or could share, according to administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the announcement.

The remainder would come from unused spectrum already scheduled for auction or from broadcasters and other spectrum licensees who would be offered incentives to give up or share parts of their communications airwaves. Currently, the spectrum for wireless communications is about 547 megahertz.

Lawrence H. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy, is expected to detail the broadband effort in a lunchtime speech in Washington to the New America Foundation, a public policy institute

Some spectrum also would be made available for free, unlicensed use by start-up companies and others, administration officials said. Such unlicensed spectrum has previously helped in the development of cordless phones, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, a consumer-oriented policy group, said the interest of consumers will be most helped by auctions that help to promote competition between wireless companies rather than entrenching the dominant providers in the market.