In the quest for access to broadband solutions, key players in the industry are pining for highly coveted spectrum. Now, members of Congress have finally come to an agreement regarding the best way to distribute this spectrum.
According to a recent PC Mag report, Congressional members involved in the process have inserted specific language into a substantial economic package that would extend power to the FCC (News - Alert) to auction off broadcast spectrum to interested – and well financed – wireless carriers.
Originally reported by The Hill, the auctions are expected to produce as much as $15 billion in revenue for the U.S. Treasury. This income is much needed to pay for unemployment benefits extensions.
In a push to make broadband more readily available for the masses, the FCC has been promoting the move to such auctions since as early as 2010 when it first introduced its national broadband plan to Congress.
The option to auction spectrum would allow TV broadcasters sitting on unused spectrum to auction off its assets to wireless carriers. If approved, a portion of the proceeds from the auction would go to the broadcasters, with the remaining going to the federal government.
So, why the push toward more spectrum availability, especially given that wireless carriers have enough to maintain their current networks? The argument here is that carriers still lack the necessary availability in resources to support the growing demand for broadband solutions driven by the adoption of smartphones and other data-hungry devices.
Adding spectrum to the wireless carrier network addresses this challenge, yet spectrum isn’t just readily available to pick up on the way to work. Spectrum (News - Alert) is owned by a number of public and private entities and only the FCC has the authority to facilitate spectrum auctions. Before the FCC can make a move, however, Congress has to authorize the planned auction.
Not surprising, the bill has been delayed in the approval process. One concern centered on a portion of the bill that would take authority to impose conditions on spectrum auctions away from the FCC. If the bill passed as introduced, that portion would have stripped the FCC of its right to ban purchases.
The provision, as expected, raised opposition over the fear that dominant players such as AT&T (News - Alert) and Verizon would purchase everything available, leaving smaller providers without a chance to compete. Supporters, such as AT&T, suggested the market could take care of itself and FCC management wasn’t needed.
A compromise was reached this week that would allow the FCC to enforce rules of general applicability to promote competition. The measure would also ensure that spectrum was set aside for a public safety network for first responders relying on broadband solutions and other technology to connect with citizens in need.
The compromise was met with approval on both sides of the argument. The bill was approved by the House and Senate and is now awaiting President Obama’s signature.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca