Opinion: Need money fast? Obama to auction off more data spectrum for commercial use

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Spotty cellphone reception getting in the way of your BlackBerry e-mail addiction or iPhone app downloads? President Obama has a memorandum for that.

The Obama administration proposes to nearly double the amount of commercially available wireless communications spectrum over the next 10 years with a memorandum signed Monday.

The White House expects that U.S. wireless data usage will balloon 20 to 45 times beyond last year’s rate. That makes sense, with many new smart phones gaining capabilities like shooting high-def video and streaming radio stations over the Internet.

If you thought dropped calls and half-loaded Web pages were bad now, imagine what the over-the-air information highway would be like with that kind of congestion.

The spectrum sale is designed to benefit cities and rural areas alike, the latter having....


...been snubbed by some of the larger home broadband Internet providers. Telecoms are already investing in high-speed 3G and 4G infrastructures in some cities.

Internet on a cellphone or mobile computer, like an iPad tablet or netbook, is already fast enough that it could replace wired Web access in many homes.

The idea of freeing up more federally controlled spectrum (in this case, 500 megahertz) has encountered resistance recently from public safety officials who opposed the Federal Communications Commission’s proposition. They would have liked to see the communications bands reserved for emergency broadcasts in case of an attack -- a concept that grew more popular after Sept. 11, 2001.

But money from the auction of the spectrum, which the major telecoms are expected to participate in, is planned for public safety, infrastructure investments, oh, and deficit reduction.

-- Mark Milian

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