President Obama today is expected to sign a presidential memorandum that gathers up 500 MHz of spectrum being used by broadcasters, federal agencies and even cable operators and auctions it for commercial use in mobile broadband.
While Congressional approval is needed in this checks-and-balances form of government, the memorandum sets the stage for wresting the spectrum from the hands of federal agencies, private companies and, importantly, TV broadcasters who've said they don't want to give back what they own.
The Obama administration wants to encourage a wireless-heavy national broadband plan by essentially doubling the amount of spectrum available for wireless networks. Forty-five percent of the spectrum would be easy to come by, since it's controlled by the federal agencies who will be "asked" to give it up or share with other agencies.
The remaining 55 percent is destined to be a problem, since a big chunk of it would come from broadcasters who claim they not only use it, but have future plans for it, like mobile digital TV and cable companies who have purchased spectrum and, according to critics, are sitting on it.
The administration is pushing the auction as a way to "catalyze private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help create hundreds of thousands of jobs," according to Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council who is also an assistant to the president for economic policy. "This policy is a win three times over."
It's hard to believe that broadcasters and cable operators share that thought.
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