Wireless industry has ideas for Obama

President-elect Barack Obama already is getting advice on how to address information technology issues in his coming administration. The Wireless Communications Association International on Wednesday released a 'National Wireless Broadband Strategy for the New Administration,' promoting WCAI's equivalent of 'a chicken in every pot' by calling for 'a connection to every person, whether at home or on the go.'

The strategy recommended policies ranging from the local to the international levels to minimize barriers to construction of wireless broadband infrastructure and to maximize universal broadband access.

'For America to remain competitive in a global economy, it must connect everyone to broadband networks at affordable prices, no matter who they are or where they live,' WCAI says in its strategy. 'Universal broadband access at affordable prices is a national strategic imperative for the United States in the 21st century.'

Also on Wednesday, the Information Technology Association of America wrote to Obama to congratulate him on his electoral victory and offer the industry's cooperation. ITAA President Phillip Bond praised the new president's recognition of the importance of education and innovation to the nation's economy and stressed the importance of technology to national security.

'Our country must be capable of defending itself in cyberspace and the battle space with cutting-edge technology solutions,' he wrote. 'America's technology industry stands ready to work with you and to support you in the difficult work ahead.'

The WCAI strategy says that adoption rates of broadband Internet access have begun to flatten among lower-income households and that a shift of attention to wireless platforms is necessary to ensure widespread availability, especially for access through mobile devices. Wireless systems can reach areas not currently served and also could drive down costs through increased competition with wire-based systems, the organization said.

The group proposed a four-point plan for achieving universal wireless broadband connectivity:
  • Minimize barriers to deployment of infrastructure and encourage additional investment. Local zoning, taxes and other regulatory requirements can complicate implementation of infrastructure needed for wireless systems. 'America must find the right balance between rapid wireless broadband deployment and other considerations,' the group said.
  • Promote polices to advance proliferation of wireless broadband service. Advanced wireless networks still are emerging technologies, and service providers and application developers need to be able to adapt quickly to new needs. 'When evaluating regulatory policies in this rapidly changing, nascent environment, the overriding priority should be to maximize the proliferation of innovative, transformational wireless broadband services,' the group said.
  • Reform universal service policies to support affordable, universal wireless broadband access. Underserved and rural consumers should have the same opportunities for mobile access as more developed areas, and 'any definition of universal broadband service should include the mobility component,' the group said.
  • Maximize spectrum resources for wireless broadband. These networks need wider bands in the radio spectrum than traditional cellular networks. 'More spectrum will likely be needed in wider contiguous bandwidths than have typically been made available,' the group said. Spectrum policy also should be coordinated internationally to simplify technology and enable equipment manufacturers and network operators to take advantage of economies of scale.

The Federal Communications Commission already has expanded access to RF spectrum this year through its auction to commercial carriers of bands that will be abandoned when the broadcast television industry moves to digital signals in February. This week the FCC also announced rules that will let wireless service providers take advantage of locally unused television spectrum known as white space for mobile high-speed Internet access.

'Opening the white spaces will allow for the creation of a Wi-Fi on steroids,' said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. 'I fully expect that everything from enhanced home broadband networks, to intelligent peer-to-peer devices, and even small communications networks will come into being in TV 'white spaces'.'

The rules have been controversial because that spectrum already is used by the professional audio industry for wireless microphones in musical and theatrical performances and for sporting events.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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