(Recasts top paragraphs, adds reaction, details and background
By Alina Selyukh and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, June 14 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 on Friday.
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
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
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.
"Our traditional three-step process for reallocating federal
spectrum - clearing federal users, relocating them and then
auctioning the cleared spectrum for new use - is reaching its
limits," Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the Federal
Communications Commission, said in supporting Obama's move.
The FCC is now working on rules for the biggest-ever auction
of commercially used airwaves, in which TV stations would give
up and wireless providers would buy highly attractive spectrum.
The auction is expected to take place in late 2014 or later.
The White House on Friday also released a report showing
growth of broadband innovation and access, an area that the
Obama administration has on because it is viewed as a critical
tool for economic growth. To further the process, the White
House now plans to invest $100 million into spectrum sharing and
Friday's directive also "strongly encourages" the FCC to
develop a program that would spur the creation and sale of radio
receivers that would ensure that if spectrum is shared,
different users do not interfere with each other.
"The steps taken today lay the groundwork for tomorrow's
broadband future," said Vonya McCann, senior vice president of
government affairs at Sprint Nextel Corp..
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Roberta Rampton; Editing by