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9/3/2009
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Regulators Mull Freeing Spectrum

The FCC's National Broadband Plan may include making more wireless spectrum available.

A key component of the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband policy may be making more wireless spectrum available, a U.S. regulator said.

The FCC is studying how the nation's broadband strategy can help the economy and improve people's lives by bridging the so-called "digital divide." The government agency is hoping to craft this National Broadband Plan by the end of the year, and tentatively plans to submit it to Congress early next year.

Blair Levin, who is coordinating development of the NBP, has said wireless broadband could be a major factor for the plan, particularly as more and more consumers use mobile data with smartphones and 3G-capable laptops. He has indicated freeing up more wireless spectrum for AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other providers could help ease bandwidth congestion.

"A key input is spectrum," Levin told industry executives, according to Reuters. "There is consensus in the record; there is not enough of it."

Levin also indicated that this issue could be addressed by freeing up airwaves used by government agencies like the Department of Defense. Additionally, smart-sensing technology could potentially be used to make more efficient use of existing airwaves.

This is just the latest sign that the FCC wants to take a more active role in shaping the framework for the nation's mobile telecommunication networks. The government agency recently launched a wide-reaching probe that is trying to take a harder look at the competition in the wireless industry, as well as strengthen consumer protection. The FCC also publicly investigated why Apple did not allow the Google Voice calling application in its App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The agency also examined the issue of handset exclusivity, and this seems to have already achieved results because Verizon said smaller carriers could sell device devices it has exclusive access to after a period that would last no longer than six months.


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