Bush orders review of spectrum use

President Bush has ordered a sweeping review of how the government and other industries use spectrum. His goal is to attack congestion from the rapidly growing use of cell phones, wireless WiFi devices and military applications.

Although Bush did not specifically mention commercial broadcast spectrum in his directive, the broadcast industry —now in the process of transitioning from analog to digital transmission — has a huge stake in how new spectrum is deployed and managed.

The president directed the Commerce Department to lead the review and to produce recommendations for federal legislation and other policy changes to promote more efficient use of the airwaves. The study is slated to produce results in one year.

Spectrum is a “vital and limited national resource” needed for economic growth, scientific research and homeland security, Bush wrote in a memo to federal agencies. "The existing legal and policy framework for spectrum management has not kept pace with the dramatic changes in technology. We must unlock the economic value and entrepreneurial potential of U.S. spectrum assets while ensuring that sufficient spectrum is available to support critical government functions."

The Commerce Department is scheduled to hold a series of public meetings to develop recommendations for spectrum use by local governments and industry. With the FCC’s supervision, the department will establish a task force that includes representatives from more than a dozen executive branch departments and agencies.

In April, the FCC doubled the amount of spectrum available for emergency and public safety workers, giving a boost to police seeking better emergency communications and firefighters wanting to send video from inside burning buildings.

Last month, the FCC voted to allow certain licensees who had paid for their spectrum to lease unused portions to others. Allowing the leasing of slices of spectrum can help cell phone companies fill dead zones, and allows infrequent users to arrange adequate spectrum for special events.

Though broadcasters may lease some of this spectrum for one-time special television events, they cannot lease their own spectrum to third parties because they were granted free use of the airwaves in exchange for providing a public service.

For more information visit www.whitehouse.gov.

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