In an effort to free up more more mobile spectrum, President Obama ordered the government, America's biggest cybersquatter, to figure out ways to put unused federal spectrum into the commercial marketplace. He also announced a $100 million investment in technologies for spectrum sharing and developing advanced communications.
About 30 government agencies, including defense, law enforcement and weather, hold about 60 percent of the spectrum best suited for mobile services, according to a presidential report issued last summer.
While Congress has authorized the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive auctions of voluntarily relinquished TV spectrum, that auction, expected to be held in 2014, will fall short of meeting the growing demand for mobile spectrum.
"Expanding the availability of spectrum for innovative and flexible commercial uses, including for broadband services, will further promote our nation's economic development by providing citizens and businesses with greater speed and availability of coverage, encourage further development of cutting-edge wireless technologies, applications, and services, and help reduce usage charges for households and businesses," Obama wrote in his memorandum released Friday mornig.
The president's directive, reported early Friday morning by several outlets, sets up a spectrum policy team to work with the National Telecommuniations and Information Administration monitor and support advances in spectrum sharing policies and technologies, both recommendations made in last year's report. Within six months, the team will recommend to the President market-based or other approaches to incent agencies to share or give up spectrum.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who has pushed legislation requiring a spectrum inventory was particularly pleased to see that as part of Obama's plan. "I have long called for a thorough inventory of all public spectrum assets in order to gauge usage and improve efficiency, and have been frustrated by how this debate has dragged out over the past four years. Federal agencies should have the spectrum they need to protect the public, but no one should be warehousing spectrum," Warner said in a statement.
In implementing the President's plan, the NTIA and the spectrum team "may invite" the Federal Communications Commission to provide advice and assistance.
"The FCC will continue to work closely with the NTIA, other federal partners, and all stakeholders to achieve the goals set forth by the President in this memoradum," said acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.
Leaders of both the House and Senate commerce committees also weighed in on the president's spectrum initiative.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) called it an "innovative new strategy."
House Commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee promised to hold a hearing later in the month to explore "mutually beneficial methods" to help government agencies free up more spectrum.