Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Obama Outlines National Wireless Broadband Initiative

President Barack Obama outlined plans for a National Wireless Initiative to make high-speed wireless services available to at least 98 percent of Americans within five years, freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety. The initiative envisions spending over $15 billion on achieving these goals, while also reducing the deficit by $9.6 billion. Money for the program would come from spectrum licensing, which is expected to raise over $27 billion over the next decade.

Key elements of the plan include the following.

* Nearly Double Wireless Spectrum Available for Mobile Broadband -- The President's initiative has set the goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum. New financial-compensation tools will be put in place to enable government agencies to use spectrum more efficiently. The government will encourage "voluntary incentive auctions" that enable current spectrum holders to realize a portion of auction revenues if they choose to participate.

* The majority of the freed up spectrum would be auctioned for licensed mobile broadband, raising a projected $27.8 billion over the next decade, and a remainder would be for unlicensed use.

* Expand 4G to 98% of Americans -- the privately-owned 4G rollouts currently underway will bring access to much of the U.S.. President Obama believes that absent additional government investment, millions of Americans will not be able to participate in the 4G revolution. To that end, the President's Budget supports the 4G buildout in rural areas through a one-time $5 billion investment. This investment, to be managed by the FCC, will help catalyze universal service reform to provide access to higher-speed wireless and wired broadband, dovetail with the need for public safety to have a wireless network available in rural areas, and extend access from the almost 95% of Americans who have 3G wireless services today to at least 98% of all Americans gaining access to state-of-the-art 4G high-speed wireless services within five years.

* A Wireless Innovation (WIN) Fund to Help Drive Innovation. This $3 billion fund will support basic research, experimentation and testbeds, and applied development in a number of areas, including public safety, education, energy, health, transportation, and economic development.

* Develop and Deploy A Nationwide, Interoperable Wireless Network For Public Safety -- President Obama is calling for an investment of $10.7 billion for public safety networking: $3.2 billion to reallocate the "D Block" (which is a band of spectrum that would be reserved and prioritized for public safety and not auctioned as called for under existing law); $7 billion to support the deployment of this network; and $500 million from the WIN Fund for R&D and technological development to tailor the network to meet public safety requirements.

* Cut the deficit by $9.6 billion over the next decade -- Auctions of pectrum freed up from the government and voluntarily relinquished by current commercial users, is estimated to raise $27.8 billion. This total is above-and-beyond the auction proceeds that are used to provide an incentive for private and government users as well as the auction proceeds that are expected even absent the President's proposal. After the cost of the investments proposed by the President, the initiative would reduce the deficit by $9.6 billion over the next decade.

See also