White House moves to double broadband provision

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Broadband coverage in the US should get a big boost, with Barak Obama today making around 500MHz of spectrum available for auction.

The plan should double the amount of commercial wireless spectrum over the next ten years.

The decision is based on recommendations in the National Broadband Plan.  About half the frequencies are currently controlled by the federal government; others are unused or held by broadcasters who will be offered incentives to give them up.

They are expected to be taken up mostly by mobile broadband providers.

The White House says President Obama will sign a memorandum today committing to the auction. National Economic Council director Lawrence H Summers, will explain the details to the New America Foundation think tank.

"This initiative will catalyze private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs," he will say.

"This policy is a win three times over. It creates prosperity and jobs while at the same time raising revenue for public purposes like public safety and increasing our ability to compete internationally."

The aim is to drastically increase broadband provision across the country, particularly in rural areas.

The move will also raise some cash for the government. It will in part be used to finance new communications systems for the police, fire and other public safety agencies.

But there have also been calls for it to be used to create a national network for the emergency services.  The Public Safety Alliance has drawn support from AT&T and Verizon.