Obama seeks to expand wireless

Published Jun 15, 2013 at 05:00AM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will invest $40 million in the next year and another $60 million over the next five years to free more of the nation’s airwaves for use by consumers in wireless broadband networks, the White House announced Friday.

The effort is meant to build on a 2010 initiative that aimed to make available some 500 megahertz of electromagnetic spectrum — the airwaves used by cellphone and wireless communications. Those airwaves were intended to come from a combination of federal and private-sector sources.

Citing “the skyrocketing demand of consumer and broadband business users,” President Barack Obama directed federal agencies to make more capacity available by enhancing the efficiency of their spectrum use.

In addition, government agencies should share data with the private sector about how much spectrum they have and how much they regularly use, which the administration believes will encourage sharing of airwaves between the government and companies.

“These efforts will provide access to more spectrum for wireless broadband providers and equipment vendors as they respond to increasingly rapid consumer adoption of smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices,” the White House said in a statement.

But the directive also allows executive departments some leeway to continue to hold on to some of their assigned airwaves when necessary “to protect government systems that rely on spectrum to keep Americans safe.”

Republicans have also pushed the federal government to free more spectrum, particularly around the so-called incentive auctions of airwaves that were authorized as part of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act.

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