Obama wants government to free up more wireless spectrum

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is directing federal agencies to look for ways to eventually share more of their radio airwaves with the private sector as the growing use of smartphones and tablets ratchets up the demand for spectrum, according to a memo released yesterday.

With blocks of spectrum reserved by dozens of government agencies for national defense, law enforcement, weather forecasting and other purposes, wireless carriers and Internet providers are urging that more spectrum be opened up for commercial use. The call comes as airwaves are becoming congested with the increase in gadgets and services that are heavily reliant on the ability to transport greater amounts of data.

“Although existing efforts will almost double the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband, we must make available even more spectrum and create new avenues for wireless innovation,” Obama said in his presidential memo. “One means of doing so is by allowing and encouraging shared access to spectrum that is currently allocated exclusively for Federal use.”

The memorandum, welcomed and lauded by the telecommunications industry, directs federal agencies to study how exactly they use the airwaves and how to make it easier to share them with the private sector.

The directive also sets up a Spectrum Policy Team that in six months will have to recommend incentives to encourage government agencies to share or give up their spectrum – something industry experts see as a critical step in opening more of the federally used airwaves to the private sector.

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