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FCC Invokes iPad in Spectrum Debate

The FCC is using the buzz over the release of Apple's iPad to put in a plug for finding more spectrum for wireless broadband use.

In a blog posting on April 2, the FCC's chief spectrum policy analyst, Phil Bellaria (director of scenario planning), teamed with deputy Wireless Bureau Chief John Leibovitz to invoke the long lines at Apple stores as evidence that broadband is going mobile fast and in a big way.

"More and more, it seems Americans don't want to be tethered to a desktop computer--or even a laptop--but want a light mobile device they can curl up on the sofa with to watch an online movie, stow in a backpack for subway reading, or pass around the office with the latest vacation pictures. The broadband connections that enable this flexibility are wireless--a fact that points out the need for more spectrum for mobile broadband that we identified in the National Broadband Plan," they said in a co-bylined piece.

They point out that many of the iPads rely "solely" on WiFi to connect to the net.

They said that while they whould know "before long" what the impact of the iPad will have on spectrum use, they said the FCC "shouldn't wait."

"The FCC's National Broadband Plan has outlined the fundamentals of a bold spectrum policy for the future. It includes short-term steps, such as carriers building out 4G networks, more cell phone towers, and migrating to more efficient equipment. But long-term, it's clear that we'll need to act on the Plan's call for more spectrum," they concluded, adding: "Failing to do so will frustrate consumers with balky networks and hamstring innovation in a sector where America leads the world."

In a little over a week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will speak to an assemblage of broadcasters at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. The FCC's plan to reclaim 120 MHz of broadcast spectrum in the next five years through a voluntary--at least at the outset--program that would compensate them for their bandwidth is sure to be on the minds of many attendees.