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Wireless Broadband Gets Boost From FCC

The FCC's plan to make unused TV spectrum

available to wireless broadband providers kind of slipped through the news late last week, but it's a decision that is sure to heat up into one of the year's biggest turf wars. It's also the kind of forward-thinking telecom policy that has been missing from the current administration, and one that should be supported by the tech industry for its level-headed thinking.

Even though the FCC showed unusual unity with a unanimous decision
to support the idea, there's no guarantee it will eventually come to pass since it will be butting heads with the powerful lobbying strength of the broadcasting industry, which is loathe to give up any of its spectrum.

On its face, the proposal makes sense: Take some underutilized spectrum and make it available for the rollout of unregulated Wi-Fi or WiMAX services, which could operate at higher performance levels in the lower-frequency bands. While mobile proponents like Intel are already behind the move, more tech vendors need to get on the bandwagon to make sure the plan becomes reality, said former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

"This is all a much bigger fight than tech world may realize," Hundt said, in an e-mail exchange with Networking Pipeline last week. If the issue were left up to potential users of each type of service, Hundt noted that it would be a battle between "millions on the side of using UHF signals for wireless broadband and only a few hundred thousand at most who want to watch UHF analog TV over the air."

Hundt, who championed a similar plan in testimony before a Senate committee last month, added: "Every day the Wi-Fi community grows and the UHF analog over-the-air TV watching audience shrinks. If we could resolve this issue by having people voting instead of lobbyists lobbying, then it would already be nearly a 100-to-1 edge in favor of converting analogy UHF TV spectrum to wireless broadband uses."

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