Monday, November 15, 2010

Bandwidth shortage? What bandwidth shortage?

Television Broadcast magazine reports that the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report today that identifies 2,200MHz of potential available over-the-air bandwidth for the National Broadband Plan. The Obama Administration and Federal Communications Commission are trying to free 500MHz of bandwidth for broadband services, and they're doing so by moving existing services such as wireless microphones, authorizing new unlicensed services to use the "white space" between television channel allocations, and convincing television broadcasters to voluntarily relinquish portions of their licensed channels for broadband use. Every action so far has resulted in a hail of criticism from the affected parties.

The NTIA report identified 155MHz that can be opened up for commercial broadband use within five years, and another 2.1GHz that could be available within ten years. The NTIA recommends taking 120MHz from television broadcasters in the VHF and UHF bands, another 160MHz from other existing commercial services, and 500MHz from bandwidth currently used for C-band and ship-based satellite receivers. 640MHz would come from bandwidth currently reserved strictly for Federal use, and another 814MHz would come from bandwidth currently shared by the U.S. Government and private users.

Even if the NTIA is very optimistic about the amount of bandwidth that can be made available within ten years, there's clearly more than enough bandwidth available to meet the 500MHz goal, even without getting television broadcasters involved. Given that it's increasingly looking as though the Obama Administration only has two more years, time is running out for the FCC to implement its vision of a broadband future. By pursuing sources other than television broadcasters, the FCC could dramatically lessen industry resistance to its broadband plans.

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