Last month during the State Of The Union Address President Obama outlined his goals to have 98% of the country covered in next-generation wireless broadband. While that certainly sounds ambitious, as we noted at the time this appears to be another in a series of goals that sound good but fall short — given the industry was likely to reach this metric without the government lifting a finger. It also rang hollow given that according to the government’s own estimates, we already technically met this goal given the wishy washy definition of next-generation wireless.
The White House this week is offering more data on their wireless goals, and they’re sounding only marginally more impressive.
According to a White House press release, the President plans to “win the future” — though it’s not entirely clear how one accomplishes such a feat. Winning the future sounds like a bad graphic novel film adaptation (Scotty Sputnick: Win The Future!), when what we need is improved competition and regulators unafraid to stand up to the wealthiest carriers occasionally. The White House says they plan to improve the nation’s wireless future by doubling available spectrum, delivering 4G to 98% of Americans, applying $3 billion in spectrum auctions to wireless research, creating a national public safety wireless network, and using spectrum revenues to reduce the deficit.
The deficit reduction and job creation claims in part explain why the FCC is so eager to have everyone believe there’s a “spectrum crisis,” despite the fact that there’s plenty of spectrum — it’s just being squatted on by select, large companies. But the fact the FCC doesn’t really want to talk about spectrum squatting again suggests they’re not really interested in fixing some of the larger competitive issues that plague the sector, so the spectrum push is a little hollow. Hollow too again is the government’s plan to achieve 98% 4G coverage, since just like their plan to deliver 100 Mbps to 100 Million homes in twenty years — it’s something the industry planned to do anyway. Look! Mission already accomplished!
That leaves the creation of a national emergency network, and the use of spectrum money for deficit reduction and wireless research, all of which could be good or bad depending on the level of government dysfunction — namely doling out huge subsidies to companies (many of which don’t deserve or need them), then failing utterly to adequately track how, where or if that money was spent. The devil will be in the details for a lot of this $18 billion plan, including getting Congress to pass a new law approving the use of “incentive auctions” as part of the FCC’s attempt to get broadcasters to give up additional spectrum.