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U.S. President Barack Obama was upbeat at his State of the Union Address, but issued tough challenges to the FCC and Congress, respectively, when it comes to wireless spectrum, oil incentives, and alternative energy.  (Source: WhiteHouse.gov)

  (Source: WhiteHouse.gov)

On Wednesday, President Obama will visit Wisconsin green energy startup Orion Energy Systems, a provider of energy-efficient lighting and solar-power solutions. The President will also visit two other local businesses.  (Source: Orion Energy Systems)
Government hopes to release 500 MHz; but plan relies on TV networks agreeing to auction of their spectrum

After pounding net neutrality and several less tech-related issues through the door, U.S. President Barack Obama was back at it during his annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, trying to fulfill yet another one of his campaign promises.

I. Step Right up to the Wireless Spectrum Auction!

When elected, the President promised to deliver faster wireless networks to Americans.  How he plans on making good on that promise is by freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum, currently left unused, and selling it to spectrum-hungry wireless network providers like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

During his State of the Union Address [video], he remarked, "Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."

The federal government has 380 of the 500 MHz it needs.  However, the other 120 MHz is currently occupied and unused by television networks, which were gifted it long ago.  The administration is trying to set up a special auction to convince these networks to part with the unused spectrum by letting them keep a cut of the auction proceeds.

Verizon Wireless general counsel Steve Zipperstein [profile] cheered the measure, stating to Reuters, "President Obama is helping the nation to understand the incredible benefits that broadband wireless can bring: to our business, to healthcare, to productivity and to education.  Wireless innovation requires public policies that foster innovation, growth and encourage continued investment by Verizon and our partners in the technology."

Television broadcasters, however, have expressed mixed feelings on the issue.  While they appreciate that the auction will give them funds and that it's voluntary, they are reticent to part with the unused spectrum, partly because they accuse wireless networks of sitting on unused spectrum they previously purchased.  States Dennis Wharton [profile], a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters to Reuters, "We would encourage Congress to immediately pass spectrum inventory legislation that fully identifies airwaves that are not being used."

Clearly, as with the net neutrality issue, President Obama has his work cut out for him.  But at the very least, he can urge Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski [profile] to open up the 380 MHz reserve as soon as possible, even if he can't convince TV providers to willingly sell their unused spectrum.

II.  Hitting the Road for Alternative Energy

Life isn't always easy if you're the president of the world's richest nation.  Not ready to call it a night just yet, hours after giving his address President Obama hopped a late night flight to Wisconsin.  There he plans to today plug his five "pillar" vision, which calls for: innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction and government reform.

The visit is largely focused on the innovation and infrastructure pillars, and specifically, his objectives concerning alternative energy.  During his speech last night, the President urged Congress to act swiftly to eliminate incentives to oil companies who import oil from unstable foreign sources (e.g. Venezuela and the Middle East).  

During the speech President Obama stated, "I don't know if you’ve noticed, but [the oil companies are] doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow's."

President Obama hopes to walk a narrow tightrope of investing massively in alternative energy, but avoiding increasing the spending deficit.  Key to that plan is scaling back military efforts overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, refocusing that funding on the home front.

By 2035, the President wants 80 percent of America's energy to come from alternative sources like modern nuclear fission, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, biofuel (algae, switchgrass, etc.), tidal power, and hydroelectric power.  Congress has yet to authorize that lofty goal or discuss what kind of government funding might be necessary to help achieve it.  Meanwhile China and the EU have pledged over a trillion dollars over the next two decades to clean energy projects, threatening to leave the U.S. far behind [1] [2] [3] [4].

On Wednesday, the President will visit [press release] Wisconsin's Orion Energy Systems, a manufacturing company in Manitowoc, that designs energy efficient lighting and solar power solutions, which it sells domestically.  

The President's visit to Manitowoc will be a first for a sitting U.S. President.  Orion Energy Systems CEO and President Neil Verfuerth, cheers the President's decision and the chance to show off the success his "green" firm has enjoyed.  It comes at a time when the energy-efficient lighting industry is reeling from a disappointing study released by the Californian state government, which showed compact fluorescent lamps burning out quicker that expected and saving less energy.

Two other domestic firms in Manitowoc will also receive a visit from the President on Wednesday.  He will travel to Skana Aluminum Company, a revived domestic manufacturer who received a $650,000 state grant to employ 110 people and resume manufacturing.  He will also visit Tower Tech Systems, a wind turbine manufacturer.

Despite the fact that his constituents are eagerly awaiting the President's visit and support, new Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R) [homepage] seized the opportunity to attack the President in a Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal column.  He writes:

Washington's agenda has put a stranglehold on our economy. The pitiful result of the stimulus package is proof that growing government does not grow our economy. We need a thriving private sector to do that. We need to encourage and incentivize entrepreneurs, not tax and regulate them to death.

What America has accomplished over its short history is truly remarkable. America is exceptional -- it is precious. And we are bankrupting it. Americans hunger for leadership. They want leaders who understand that the only way to set America's economy back on the right path is to promote freedom, protect the free market system and respect our founders' vision of limited government.

The call for a limited government will please many, but when China and the EU are racing ahead on the heels of massive high-tech investment in clean energy and high-speed rail, one must wonder if the economic wind is shifting when it comes to massive infrastructure projects.  And many forget that the U.S.'s greatest technological innovations historically -- the railroad system and the telephone network, came on the heels of what would now amount to billions, if not trillions of dollars in land, tax breaks, and subsidies.



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RE: Really?
By kattanna on 1/26/2011 4:32:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The average person isn't going to have even a 100 watt transmitter at their house


first up, im sure you meant 100 Kwatt

and i dont know.. *I* would find the humor in average joe taking home such a transmitter and then wondering why no other RF remote worked at all LOL

like them going out and trying to use their car lock remote, or their local neighbors even

hahaha.. good times!!


RE: Really?
By JediJeb on 1/26/2011 5:18:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh the days of running hotfoot on a CB with a 100 watt linear amp ;). Could key the mic and open garage doors half way down the street lol. Just imagine every house in the neighborhood transmitting broadband on those frequencies at that power, there would be car door locks and garage doors going up and down 24/7. Though that was the 27Mhz band, but at the power needed for the 500Mhz band you could still be interfering with a lot of things.


RE: Really?
By Expunged on 1/26/2011 6:47:44 PM , Rating: 5
No, actually I meant 100 watt. If you have a 10 KW ERP broadcast on with an omnidirectional pattern then a 100 watt transmitter with directional antenna with 20 dB of gain would have the same ERP allowing it to reach the same distance (i.e. 10 KW ERP tower covering homes that each have 100 watt with 20 dB CPE). The problem is an antenna with 20 dB of gain at 500 MHz would be massive, a dish is out of the question. Scala makes a CA series yagi with 12 dB of gain and it is something like 36" long (this is off the top of my head, I guess I should do my homework). Assuming that the surface area has to double to increase the gain 3 dB it would need to be 250+ inches long to have 20 dB of gain at 500 MHz. Everyone is going to look like a HAM operator with a massive Yagi on a tower in their back yard.

The reason I said "even a 100 watt" is that even a 100 watt transmitter running 24/7 is going to create a serious power bill and warm up their house a few degrees. The entire concept is impractical, while the free space loss at 500 MHz is much less than at 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz the physical requirements for antennas and transmitters makes the entire thing absurd. UHF radios (near the 500 MHz mark) used to be used quite frequently for fire, police, etc as well as private radio systems had people running around with 100 watt radios in the trunk of their car tied to a large whip antenna and even then it rarely covered the county well...

Wireless is the answer for last mile broadband, that much is true. Wireless at these frequencies is not the option though and will never be the option. The only place these frequencies make sense is in extremely rural instances where you could cover 1000's of square miles from a single tower that covered a few hundred farms or ranches. Even then the entire concept is impractical for the reasons previously outlined and a whole bunch of other reasons not even discussed.


RE: Really?
By 0ldman on 1/26/2011 11:24:47 PM , Rating: 1
These frequencies will come in handy to insure 100% coverage for WISPs. They will be supplemental to the 900MHz, 2.4GHz, 3.65GHz and 5GHz band we already use.

They will not be the savior of America's tech problems, nor will they reliably cover hundreds of miles and thousands of users.

The people doing these studies and the feds are missing the forest for the trees.

This is useful as another tool to get Internet service to the folks that can't get it through other means, like the guy that gets a -90dB signal from an existing ISP, or his neighbor that is *just* outside the range or in a blind spot.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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