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WiFi Could Finally Get Its Economic Due

Frank Pallone
Rep. Frank Pallone

A newly reintroduced bill would resolve the issue of unlicensed spectrum, the currency of cable WiFi hotspots the country over, being undervalued as an economic force by the government. 

The Government Spectrum Valuation Act would require the government to put a value on all its spectrum “if the spectrum were reallocated for the use with the highest potential value of licensed or unlicensed commercial wireless services that do not have access to that spectrum as of the date of the estimate,” the bill said. 

The issue of undervaluing unlicensed spectrum has been a bipartisan one, so there is hope that this time around, with the added emphasis of an Internet of Things world and a rural digital divide that unlicensed can help connect, the bill could finally pass.

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In 2015, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), then ranking member and now chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, pointed out in a spectrum hearing that unlicensed spectrum was a driver of innovation. But even though that spectrum has been calculated to provide a $220 billion annual boost to the economy, Pallone said, the Congressional Budget Office scores freeing it up at “zero,” meaning that while CBO scores auctioning spectrum as worth billions to the treasury, it treats freeing up unlicensed bandwidth as though the government wasn’t getting anything for that valuable spectrum.

NCTA–The Internet & Television Association has estimated WiFi “will generate $995 billion in economic value for the United States in 2021.”