Business

Obama orders government agencies to free up wireless spectrum for the people

President Obama is trying to get off the tech community’s shit list.

The President issued a memorandum today to expand the availability of spectrum and bolster America’s leadership in wireless innovation. He mandated that federal agencies free up a significant portion of wireless spectrum so that it can be used by individuals and businesses, and he also announced that the government will invest $100 million in research and development of spectrum-sharing technology.

The initiatives are in an effort to fuel American innovation and maintain the country’s position as a “global leader in wireless broadband technologies.”

“These new initiatives are the latest in a series of actions the administration has taken over the past four years to ensure American businesses and workers have the infrastructure they need to compete in the 21st-century economy,” said a fact sheet the administration issued this morning. 

The President issued a memorandum in 2010 called “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution,” which required that 500 MHz of spectrum be made available for commercial use within the next 10 years. However, the percentage of American homes reached by high-speed broadband networks has more than quadrupled since 2009 and is now at 80 percent. Use of mobile devices has exploded in the past few years, putting greater strains on available spectrum and making the need to increase access more urgent.

The military, government agencies, and law enforcement currently use a significant portion of available spectrum (which is a finite resource) for national security and public safety. In July 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology presented a report that said “it is imperative we make enough wireless spectrum available to meet the needs of rapidly expanding and innovative sector of the economy.” Increased access will not only spur domestic economic growth but also help keep the U.S. on top of the technological hierarchy.

President Obama has been a vocal advocate for technical innovation and emphasized over and over the important role that entrepreneurship plays in driving the U.S. economy. Last week, he announced an ambitious plan to get 99 percent of American students connected to lightning-fast Internet within five years. He said that American schools, where only 20 percent of students have access to high-speed Wi-Fi, are falling behind nations like South Korea, where 100 percent of students are wired. Furthermore, the President has made a major push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education. American students’ test scores in this areas lag far behind those of other countries, and there are far more open STEM jobs than qualified people to fill them.

The spectrum initiative is part of the overall mission to grow the U.S. economy through technology. The announcement comes a week after news broke about the FBI and NSA’s top secret data-mining project, PRISM. The snowball of privacy invasion keeps on growing, and today Bloomberg came out with a report that found that thousands of technology, finance, and manufacturing firms are sharing customer data with the government.

The government may be spying on your Internet activity, but it also wants you to have better access to that Internet.

While the expansion of access to spectrum and the improvement of Internet in schools are crucial steps toward supporting technical innovation and the economy, so is establishing an environment where businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals are not indiscriminately being spied on.

Photo Credit: White House/Flickr


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