Biden Removes Political Hurdles to Spectrum Reform

Biden Removes Political Hurdles to Spectrum Reform

Vice President Joseph Biden lifted political barriers to spectrum allocation to expand wireless bandwidth and ease the crunch in the wireless industry.

Biden, who shared a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers with emergency first responders, touted the benefits of dedicating more airwaves for wireless devices and creating a dedicated broadband network for law enforcement and emergency services.

His announcement throws the Obama administration’s support behind spectrum auctions and reallocation of unlicensed spectrum, with the underlying goal of stimulating the economy by encouraging growth in the mobile technology industry, as well as increasing public safety.

The report predicts an increase in data traffic and an accompanying spectrum shortage over the next several years, and calls for more spectrum for unlicensed uses, measures that aim to spur development in the mobile technology industry and ensure adequate spectrum for first responders.

The report represents the Obama administration’s efforts to cut through political infighting that hinders spectrum solutions in Congress.

Democrats and large technology companies such as Google and Microsoft are largely in favor of letting the FCC set aside unlicensed spectrum to foster competition and technology development. Republicans generally oppose spectrum reallocation and auctions on grounds they give away too much taxpayer money to the wireless technology industry and fund payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits extensions.

The Council of Economic Advisers report supports a mix of unlicensed and licensed spectrum, creating a balanced allocation and keeping the largest, wealthiest carriers and technology companies from gaining advantage because they can afford to buy more spectrum at auction, leaving concerns such as public safety out of the mix.

A mix of spectrum reallocation and auctions will also help keep prices lower for consumers. AT&T recently announced it would raise fees if lawmakers and regulators did not come to agreement on spectrum plans, and other carriers are scrambling for ways to meet spectrum needs and stay competitive.

The Economic Benefits report is part of pending payroll tax cut legislation, which Obama is set to sign. The bill includes incentives for television broadcasters to auction unused airwaves, allowing wireless carriers to gain spectrum to boost network capacities.

The legislation will bring wireless service to underserved rural areas and ease data congestion, as well as help first responders ensure public safety.

Rollout of new spectrum will be used “to speed wireless communication” and will “fulfill a promise made to first responders after 9/11 that they would have the technology they need to stay safe and do their jobs,” Biden said.

As the Obama administration seeks spectrum solutions for public safety and the wireless industry as a whole, the political decisions made will have rippling implications for both consumers and the wireless industry’s future.

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