Obama’s 98% Wireless Goal

There may be doubts that President Obama can meet his State of the Union pledge to spur development of high-speed wireless coverage to almost all Americans (98%) by 2016, but his remarks did garner praise from a group that previously has been wary of such plans: Broadcasters.

Obama’s goal resembles those of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, whose National Broadband Plan calls for stations across the country to give up some of their unused spectrum to be used for the new wireless capacity.

Broadcasters have been vocal about not being forced to give up spectrum, and are offering some guarded support to a bill in which the unused space will be freed via voluntary auctions. But Gordon Smith, the CEO of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, was pleased with what he heard from Obama’s speech because it focused on expanding wireless to rural areas.

“NAB believes the President’s vision deserves as much attention as reallocating broadcast spectrum to wireless carriers in urban markets,” he said. He added that Congress should consider a “holistic approach” to finding spectrum inventory, including legislation that identifies “fallow or warehoused airwaves.”

Obama’s proposal also drew praise, not so unexpectedly, from Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Assn., who has been pushing for “finding the best uses for our finite spectrum.” Verizon Wireless’s general counsel Steve Zipperstein also praised the plan, although the company is challenging the FCC on its recently passed net neutrality rules.

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