Policy

White House Investing $100 Million in Govt. Spectrum Initiative

Will Announce Efforts to Get Agencies to Relinquish, Share and More Efficiently Use Spectrum 6/14/2013 2:07 AM Eastern

The White House on Friday will announce a $100 million, multi-prong initiative to free up more government spectrum via sharing and efficiency that could also allow for relinquishing spectrum, according to a White House official.

At the same time, the White House is releasing a report promoting the advances and investment in broadband under the Obama administration.

The President two years ago called for what he said was a deficit reduction plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98% of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety. He included his wireless broadband deployment plan as part of the American Jobs Act

The new initiatives include a Presidential directive to federal agencies "to enhance the efficiency of their use of spectrum and make more capacity available to satisfy the skyrocketing demand of consumer and business broadband users."

Obama is also pledging $100 million in R&D support. By September, the National Science Foundation will award $23 million in spectrum-sharing research and development grants and DARPA will announce the first of a planned $60 million in contracts for federal spectrum sharing efforts over the next five years.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will spend another $17.5 million on spectrum and advanced communications research, as well as to encourage more public-private collaboration.

There will also be a Spectrum Technology Day to "showcase advances in spectrum sharing and other innovations aimed at solving the so-called 'spectrum crunch.' "

"Connecting the middle class to the benefits of the digital age is a critical piece of the President’s economic plan," said the official. "To create jobs and grow wages at home, and to compete in the global information economy, we have a national imperative to deliver fast, affordable and reliable service to all corners of the United States. Moreover, the construction of  broadband infrastructure itself is a major driver of American investment and job creation."

The administration has been under pressure from Congress to find more government spectrum to contribute to the 500 MHz the President wants to free up by the end of the decade.

The broadcast incentive auctions could free up as much 120 MHz, though likely less given spectrum coordination issues with Canada and Mexico, and NTIA has found about 200 more.

The new initiative is the second in as many weeks. On June 6, the President announced the ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of students to high speed broadband (at least 100 Mbps, and preferably 1 gigabit) within five years with the help of the FCC's E-rate subsidy program.

In association with the new initiative, the White House released a report, "Four Years of Broadband Growth," that, as its name suggests, touts the administration's broadband efforts to date, including the "light touch" network neutrality regs.It also suggests that while current government definitions of high-speed are 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, or in some cases 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, "10 Mbps downstream is an increasingly 'basic' speed," but even more is likely needed.

The report identifies the Obama's key contributions to broadband advancement as "(1) stoking broadband investment through the Recovery Act; (2) providing tax incentives for business investment; (3) freeing up spectrum for mobile broadband; and (4) a light-touch, multi-stakeholder approach to regulation that has fostered both innovation in applications and deployment of infrastructure."

But the administration can't toot its own horn without making some noise for the private industry that did most of the investing and build-out, which is inherent in the stats it cites, though it ties them to administration's economic and regulatory policies.

"By nearly any metric the last four years have been a period of tremendous growth in broadband infrastructure, access, and the digital economy upon which they rely," the report says. "Today, about 91 percent of Americans have access to wired broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream, and 81 percent of Americans have access to similarly fast mobile wireless broadband."

And private industry gets much of the credit. "[T]he private sector has been driving important advances in infrastructure and technology," the report says. "In fact, since President Obama took office in early 2009, nearly $250 billion in private capital has been invested in U.S. wired and wireless broadband networks. In just the last two years, more high-speed fiber cables have been laid in the United States than in any similar period since 2000."

But the report also says many markets are subject to limited competition  and that "significant challenges remain in adoption, price and speed."

 

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