New spectrum sales are key to Obama’s budget
February 5, 2010
President Obama’s $352.5 million budget for 2011 makes clear that the administration expects to find new spectrum and to sell it to wireless broadband carriers as a source of government income.
The administration expects to extend the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum “indefinitely” and the agency will “make available significant spectrum suitable for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use over the next 10 years.” The spectrum will be used for commercial broadband and dynamically shared by private industry and the government.
The administration had already budgeted $1.6 billion in auction revenues by 2020 by extending the FCC’s authority. However, it said it is looking to create value “beyond the $1.6 billion” from the spectrum it reclaims.
The administration’s position is a threat to television broadcasters because the FCC has targeted them as a prime candidate for reclaiming spectrum. The broadcasters never paid for their spectrum and were granted it by the government in exchange for doing public service.
The FCC has indicated that even though it could simply take the spectrum from broadcasters, it instead will pay the broadcast users a fee for the spectrum. Broadcasters have opposed giving up any of their spectrum, claiming it is being used for digital television and undefined future mobile applications.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said at the CES trade show last month that spectrum is the “engine for economic growth” and that the two most likely sources of needed spectrum are the broadcasters and government users.