Feds propose shifting more airwaves to broadband

Federal officials looking for more airwaves to deliver wireless broadband services are recommending that the government reallocate a sizeable chunk of radio spectrum currently used for naval radar systems and weather satellites, reports the Associated Press. The proposal, outlined in a report released Nov. 15 by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is intended to keep up with ballooning use of iPhones, laptops, and other mobile devices that connect to the internet over wireless networks. As more Americans use such devices to watch video and do other online tasks that eat up a lot of bandwidth, the government is looking for ways to free up additional airwaves to ease congested networks. The wireless industry currently holds roughly 500 megahertz of licensed spectrum. In June, the Obama administration committed the federal government to releasing an additional 500 megahertz of spectrum now being used by government agencies and the private sector, and repurpose it for wireless broadband services over the next 10 years. Those airwaves would be auctioned off to commercial wireless carriers or set aside for unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi networks. The new Commerce Department proposal would free up an additional 115 megahertz of spectrum over the next five years for wireless broadband. Of that, 100 megahertz would be shared with Defense Department radar systems, and another 15 megahertz would be reclaimed from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites used to disseminate weather information. “The future of our mobile economy depends on spectrum, America’s invisible infrastructure,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a Nov. 15 statement. “If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to face a spectrum crunch that will stifle American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”

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