Congress moves forward on spectrum…inventory

I've written posts today for both CNET and Forbes on legislation introduced yesterday by Senators Olympia Snowe and John Kerry that would require the FCC and NTIA to complete inventories of existing spectrum allocations.  These inventories were mandated by President Obama last June (after Congress failed to pass legislation), but got lost at the FCC in the net neutrality armageddon.

Everyone believes that without relatively quick action to make more spectrum available, the mobile Internet could seize up.  Given the White House's showcasing of wireless as a leading source of new jobs, investment, and improved living conditions for all Americans, both Congress and President Obama, along with the FCC and just about everyone else, knows this is a crisis that must be avoided.

Indeed, the National Broadband Plan estimates conservatively that mobile users will need 300-500 mhz of new spectrum over the next 5-10 years.

The last major auction, however, conducted in 2008 for analog spectrum given up by broadcasters in the Digital TV transition, was only 62 mhz.  And that process took years.

So while auctions--perhaps of more of the over-the-air allocations--could help, it can't be the silver bullet.  We'll need creative solutions--including technology to make better use of existing allocations, spectrum sharing, release of government-held frequencies.

But why not start by figuring out who has spectrum now, and see if it's really being put to the use that's in the best interests of American consumers, who are ultimately the owners of the entire range.

You can guess why some people would prefer not to open that dialogue.

And perhaps why something so obvious as an inventory doesn't already exist.