The New York Times
Saturday, September 29, 2012
F.C.C. Backs Plan on Reclaiming Spectrum for a Wireless Auction
By EDWARD WYATT
WASHINGTON — The government took a big step on Friday to aid the creation of new high-speed wireless Internet networks that could fuel the development of the next generation of smartphones and tablets, and devices that haven’t even been thought of yet.
The five-member Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved a sweeping, though preliminary, proposal to reclaim public airwaves now used for broadcast television and auction them off for use in wireless broadband networks, with a portion of the proceeds paid to the broadcasters.
The initiative, which the F.C.C. said would be the first in which any government would pay to reclaim public airwaves with the intention of selling them, would help satisfy what many industry experts say is booming demand for wireless Internet capacity.
Mobile broadband traffic will increase more than thirtyfold by 2015, the commission estimates. Without additional airwaves to handle the traffic, officials say, consumers will face more dropped calls, connection delays and slower downloads of data.
The F.C.C. will issue proposed rules for what it calls incentive auctions — the sale of airwaves that are voluntarily given up by broadcasters in exchange for a portion of the auction proceeds.
A proposal detailing the program will be released next week, officials said.
The commission will seek public comments over the coming months.
“In this flat, competitive world, capital and talent can flow anywhere,” Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said before the vote. “We’re in a global bandwidth race. It’s similar to the space race in that success will unleash waves of innovation that will go a long way toward determining who leads our global economy in the 21st century.”