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FCC's Genachowski previews broadband plan, demands half gigahertz of spectrum for the task

Chris Ziegler

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Time's running out for the FCC to present its National Broadband Plan to Congress next month, a set of sweeping regulatory changes geared at making broadband widely and readily available to every nook and cranny of the country -- and as the day of reckoning draws near, chairman Julius Genachowski is starting to talk specifics about how the Plan's going to look. At a speech hosted by the think tank New America Foundation today, Genachowski revealed a few key initiatives geared overall to reach the goal of reclaiming a whopping 500MHz of spectrum to apply toward wireless broadband data over the coming decade. A big part of that puzzle will be something called the Mobile Future Auction where existing spectrum owners (ahem, TV broadcasters) could be given the opportunity to voluntarily -- emphasis on "voluntarily" -- sell off their airwaves in exchange for a portion of the auction proceeds; it's claimed that as much as $50 billion in value could be "unlocked" by more efficiently using some of this spectrum, where only about half is currently being used in even the most populous markets. They'll also be making some moves to encourage more innovation with unlicensed spectrum -- an area that has already brought about paradigm-shifting technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth at 2.4GHz -- and proposing the launch of a Mobility Fund as part of the Universal Service Fund's reboot to help build out infrastructure in underserved areas. It all sounds ambitious, yes -- but if some of the claims the FCC and others are making about projected wireless data utilization over the next few years are even close to true, drastic action appears to be well-justified.

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