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Friday, August 10, 2012

Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress

Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The convergence of wireless telecommunications technology with the Internet Protocol (IP) is fostering new generations of mobile technologies. This transformation has created new demands for advanced communications infrastructure and radio frequency spectrum capacity that can support high-speed, content-rich uses. Furthermore, a number of services, in addition to consumer and business communications, rely at least in part on wireless links to broadband (highspeed/ high-capacity) infrastructure such as the Internet and IP-enabled networks. Policies to provide additional spectrum for mobile broadband services are generally viewed as drivers that would stimulate technological innovation and economic growth.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-96, signed February 22, 2012) included provisions to expedite the availability of spectrum for commercial use. These include expediting auctions of licenses for spectrum designated for mobile broadband; authorizing incentive auctions, which would permit television broadcasters to receive compensation for steps they might take to release some of their airwaves for mobile broadband; requiring that specified federal holdings be auctioned or reassigned for commercial use; and providing for the availability of spectrum for unlicensed use. The act also includes provisions to apply future spectrum license auction revenues toward deficit reduction; to establish a planning and governance structure to deploy public safety broadband networks, using some auction proceeds for that purpose; and to assign additional spectrum resources for public safety communications.

Increasing the amount of spectrum available to support new mobile technologies is one step toward meeting future demand for mobile services. This report discusses some of the commercial and federal spectrum policy changes required by the act. It also summarizes new policy directions for spectrum management under consideration in the 112th Congress, such as the encouragement of new technologies that use spectrum more efficiently.

Date of Report: August 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R40674
Price: $29.95

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