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The End of Spectrum 'Scarcity'

As the FCC begins its year-long process to recommend a National Broadband Plan, one starting point is to unlock publicly-owned assets that can facilitate ubiquitous, affordable broadband access. Wireless spectrum remains the most cost-effective and rapid means to deliver broadband access to rural and unserved urban residents. But as mobile broadband use continues to increase exponentially, demand for spectrum will rapidly outpace availability under current spectrum management policies. Public policy seems stymied by the myth that spectrum is scarce. In reality, only government permission to access the airwaves (licenses) is scarce spectrum capacity itself is barely used in most locations and at most times. This underutilized spectrum represents enormous, untapped, public capacity for high-speed and pervasive broadband connectivity. It is vital to a national broadband plan to consider policies that will encourage more intensive and efficient use of the nations spectrum resources. What combination of technologies and policy reforms can open the airwaves and enable an era of pervasive connectivity? Our panel includes technology and policy experts who believe dynamic, opportunistic access to underutilized spectrum especially federal government bands is feasible if we can only muster the political will. One promising mechanism for making substantial new allocations of spectrum available for wireless broadband deployments and other innovation is to leverage the TV Bands Database that will be certified by the FCC for unlicensed access to vacant TV channels. Several papers describing this and other ideas to achieve more shared, dynamic spectrum access will be released at this event.
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