The President's Digital Dilemmas: More Airwaves

By Cindy Waxer November 15, 2010

In June, President Obama signed a memorandum calling for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for fixed and mobile wireless broadband in the next 10 years. The thinking is that freeing up more airwaves will improve America’s economic competiveness, create jobs and help maintain America’s leadership role in technological innovation. Not to mention accommodate today’s burgeoning demand for iPhones, laptops and other mobile devices that connect to the Internet.

Now, a report released by the Commerce Department’s NTIA recommends that the government reallocate a significant portion of radio spectrum currently used for weather satellites and naval radar systems.

The report advises:

  1. Making available 15 megahertz of spectrum (specifically 1695-1710 MHz) while protecting, by the use of exclusion zones, NOAA’s mission critical functions of weather forecasting and severe storm warnings as well as other uses by a number of Federal agencies and;
  2. Freeing 100 megahertz of spectrum between 3550-3650 MHz while protecting, by the use of exclusion zones, U.S. Navy coastal operations and other Department of Defense test and training areas.

But freeing up airwaves isn’t the only digital dilemma facing the President. Last week, the NTIA released a report revealing that low-income, rural and some minority groups continue to lag significantly behind other U.S. groups in broadband adoption. In fact, 64 percent of U.S. households had broadband service at home as of October 2009, up from 51 percent in 2007, said the report, based on a survey of 54,000 households by the U.S. Census Bureau. Another 5 percent of households connected to the Internet through dial-up service, compared to 11 percent in 2007.

“Americans who lack broadband Internet access are cut off from many educational and employment opportunities," NTIA administrator Lawrence Strickling said in a statement. "The learning from today's report is that there is no simple 'one-size-fits-all' solution to closing the digital divide. A combination of approaches makes sense, including targeted outreach programs to rural and minority populations emphasizing the benefits of broadband.”




Edited by Erin Harrison

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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