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President Barack Obama has inserted authorization for his long desired wireless spectrum auction into American Jobs Act.  (Source: Newscom)

The auction would allow TV broadcasters to sell unused spectrum to wireless carriers, splitting the profits with the government. Wireless carriers could then use the spectrum to speed up smart phone connections.  (Source: Backpack Tactics)

The government would use its earnings to create an emergency broadcast Wi-Fi network to be used by firefighters and police during emergencies.  (Source: Corbis)
Spectrum sale would eventually boost 4G speeds and coverage, fund a national emergency Wi-Fi network

Sneaky, sneaky -- remember U.S. President Barack Obama's big American Jobs Act, which he was plugging before the NFL season opener last Thursday?  Well, the proposed legislation was released Monday and it included a little something extra -- proposed authorization for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to hold a special wireless spectrum auction, something President Obama has long been pushing.

Telecommunications companies like Verizon Communications Inc. (
VZ), AT&T, Inc. (T), and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) have been pushing for this auction for a long time.  They warn that they're running out of spectrum to deploy faster 4G wireless connections.  Meanwhile, they point out that many TV broadcasters are sitting on large unused chunks of spectrum.

The auction would likely be held sometime early next year and would be an incentive-based auction.  TV broadcasters would not be required to participate, but those who do would split the profits of sales of their unused spectrum with the government.

A handful of TV broadcasters are excited about the potential revenue from the option.  But a noisy contingent has protested the auction.  They claim that the FCC has not sufficiently considered interference that use of the spectrum for wireless devices might cause.  Thus they argue that their fellow broadcasters 
should not be allowed to sell their spectrum, and the auction should be scrapped.

The proposed spectrum auction has largely stalled thus far due to these protests.  Now it may finally advance.

If the auction is authorized, it would use $6.5B USD raised from the auction to 
fund the national Wi-Fi emergency broadcast network.  Firefighters, police, and other first responders would utilize the network.

The network was first proposed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 after emergency responders struggled to communicate with each other in the chaotic aftermath.  In early 2009, at the start of Obama's presidency an auction looked to create a public/private partnership to fund the network.  However, the auction failed due to lack of interest.

If the new plan succeeds, a 10 MHz block of the 700 MHz band -- the so-called "D-Block – would be applied to building the new network.  The majority of funding would go towards building physical wireless networking infrastructure into most major U.S. cities and securing the resulting network.

In his letter to Congress, Obama promotes the act, but doesn't spend much time specifically promoting the auction provision.  He writes:

To create jobs, I am submitting the American Jobs Act of 2011 -- nearly all of which is made up of the kinds of proposals supported by both Republicans and Democrats, and that the Congress should pass right away to get the economy moving now. The purpose of the American Jobs Act of 2011 is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans.

However, he faces resistance in the House and Senate from his Republican rivals. Representative Eric Cantor, the Republican party House Majority Leader, writes:

What Washington needs and what the American people need is for us to find some agreement and there are plenty of things we can agree on. For instance, on the need for infrastructure spending, we believe that states have monies right now, but Washington has tied up their ability to use those monies. We want to straighten out the system of how money is spent before we start spending more.

We don't support the idea of creating a Fannie and Freddie for roads and bridges in an infrastructure bank. We believe that you can facilitate a better flow of funds to construction projects by fixing the current system. There's plenty for us to work on together. Instead of trying to accentuate where differences are, because good people can disagree, let's try to produce results so the middle class can get back to work in this country.

Like the President, most Republican rivals haven't directly commented on the auction and emergency network deployment plans (though Rep. Cantor's comment seems to allude to the latter deployment).

Thus the fate of President Obama's latest effort to push through the incentive-auction of unused TV spectrum largely rests on his ability to sell the Jobs Act as a whole.



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Who's getting this contract?
By MrTeal on 9/14/2011 1:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
Broadcasting at 700MHz will be great for range for this new network, but it's really going to jack of the costs. Cisco might be able to sell you and me a $100 2.4GHz WAP, but I'd bet good money that an equivalent 700Mhz version for the government couldn't possibly be made for under $1000 or so.




RE: Who's getting this contract?
By DanNeely on 9/14/2011 2:41:43 PM , Rating: 2
You mean like how Verizon can't sell a 700mhz LTE device for <$1000?


RE: Who's getting this contract?
By MrTeal on 9/14/2011 3:58:16 PM , Rating: 2
The article specifically said that this would be a WiFi system operating at 700MHz. Unless I'm mistaken, no 802.11 equipment operates in that frequency band. Hence, you couldn't build this system using COTS equipment.


RE: Who's getting this contract?
By DanNeely on 9/14/2011 5:00:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm assuming that's just poor reporting (again); and that it's the same basic idea that they tried to sell in the last 700MHZ auction: a 4G service where emergency responders get priority over anyone else using the bandwidth, with the exception that as a dedicated govt funded network there won't be consumer devices sharing it.


RE: Who's getting this contract?
By Yames on 9/14/2011 2:50:02 PM , Rating: 2
We are not talking home user level equipment here. The current equipment probably costs that much.


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad














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