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Obama Seeking Help On Spectrum Reclamation

WASHINGTON — The White House wants input on which, or which combination, of at least nine different approaches will work to incentivize or require federal spectrum users — such as the Federal Aviation Administration or the Defense Department — to give up their bandwidth for wireless broadband.

Cable operators are among those pushing for more unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, including through a newly created coalition, Wifi Forward, which wants to goose the government effort to free up what the National Telecommunications & Information Administration has identified as more than 400 Megahertz of spectrum in government hands that could e potentially freed up.

Just as the Federal Communications Commission was charged with freeing up spectrum from commercial uses — such as broadcasters, most notably — for wireless broadband, technically for what the marketplace decides is the highest, best use, so the National Telecommunications & Infrastructure Authority is charged with doing the same for government spectrum holders like the Department of Defense.

But the NTIA is getting some help from a White House Spectrum Policy Team, created by President Obama to advance his goal of freeing up 500 MHz from commercial and noncommercial spectrum users for wireless broadband within a decade.

That team will ultimately advise the president on the best way to incentivize federal users to “give it up,” as it were, or at least to share it.

The White House policy team put out a request for information on a report by the Science & Technology Policy Institute outlining those nine approaches. The report concludes that no one approach is likely to provide all the answers.

“Many possible combinations, modifications and offshoots of these approaches could be used to best adapt to the evolving economic, political and technological environment,” the report concluded.

The nine options are: spectrum-use fees that would encourage more efficient use; a generalized spectrum relocation fund; spectrum property rights; a secondary market in short-term federal spectrum leases; flexible access rights that allow for higher and lower priority uses; so-called spectrum superhighways, where government and commercial uses share the road, but government has prioirity and will be compensated via synthetic currency (think spectrum Bitcoins) or real money; zeroing out funding in a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC)-like “spectrum” base-closure regime; having the federal Office of Management and Budget reallocate spectrum, as it does dollars; and in addition to a forced reallocation, allow commercial users to independently negotiate with federal spectrum holders for quicker exits.


Cable operators are pushing the government to free up more spectrum for Wi-Fi.