(Adapted from Bloomberg BNA Daily Report for Executives, May 16th, 2012.)
Two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan raised alarms about the future of mobile broadband. Given unprecedented increases in consumer demand for new devices and new services, the agency said, network operators would need far more radio frequency assigned to them, and soon. Without additional spectrum, the report noted ominously, mobile networks could grind to a halt, hitting a wall as soon as 2015.
That’s one reason President Obama used last year’s State of the Union address to renew calls for the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to take bold action, and to do so quickly. The White House, after all, had set an ambitious goal of making mobile broadband available to 98 percent of all Americans by 2016. To support that objective, the president told the agencies to identify quickly an additional 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile networks.
By auctioning that spectrum to network operators, the president noted, the deficit could be reduced by nearly $10 billion. That way, the Internet economy could not only be accelerated, but taxpayers would actually save money in the process.
A good plan. So how is it working out?
Unfortunately, the short answer is: Not well. Speaking this week at the annual meeting of the mobile trade group CTIA, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had to acknowledge the sad truth: “the overall amount of spectrum available has not changed, except for steps we’re taking to add new spectrum on the market.” Continue reading →