Industry's wallets willing for spectrum

Money talks, and to free radio spectrum for third-generation wireless (3G) applications, it will need to speak up, according to several members of a panel discussion held April 5 at the Capitol.

But federal users of key spectrum space may not be ready to listen.

The panel, sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, discussed spectrum allocation for 3G applications, which promise to deliver high-speed mobile Internet access.

Spectrum bands selected for 3G applications by a worldwide consortium have a number of federal users, including the Defense Department and the Instructional Television Fixed Service, which provides national distance-learning services. Reports issued in March by the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that sharing spectrum bands with industry would be difficult and that moving federal users to new bands, if possible, would be expensive.

By law, any incumbents who are relocated must be reimbursed. But Tom Sugrue, chief of the FCC's wireless bureau, said, "There should be enough money to make things work out."

Leslie Harris, president of Leslie Harris and Associates, remains skeptical. "You can only move and talk about money when there's someplace to go."

Moving ITFS services also could disrupt much-needed broadband access for rural and inner-city areas.

"There's more at stake here than moving out incumbents," said Harris, whose company represents several ITFS services. "It's much more complicated than that."

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