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Bush Initiates Spectrum Policy Review

President Bush signed an executive order Thursday instructing the Commerce Department to conduct a year-long review of spectrum use by the government and the private sector.

The order requires the Commerce Department to set up a task force with two groups, one to examine to government use of radio airwaves and an another to review non-government use.

The initiative also calls for a series of public hearings At the end of the review, the task force will recommend possible legislative changes and other policy reforms.

"The existing legal and policy framework for spectrum management has not kept pace with the dramatic changes in technology and spectrum use," a White House memo to federal agencies stated.

The Bush memo called the current government system for allocating spectrum, "a process that is often slow and inflexible and can discourage the introduction of new technology."

With the explosion of cell phone use and other electronic gadgets, the government has been under increasing pressure to make more airwaves available to the private sector. The military, however, has resisted giving up spectrum, citing national security reasons.

Not surprisingly, the private sector hailed the Bush order.

"As the White House today noted, tremendous growth in new products and services has come in the relatively small unlicensed area, proving that non-incumbent entrepreneurs can make a huge difference in responding to consumer needs," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). "But we are just at the beginning of the digital transformation and our spectrum policy can and will adjust to the new era. Further advances in WiFi services, broadband offerings and other exciting innovations lie ahead."

Tom Wheeler, president and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, added, "The tools we have for formulating spectrum policy are broken, and we look forward to working with the task force under Secretary (Don) Evans' leadership to ensure this national resource is fully utilized as a national safety and economic growth asset."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates non-government use of spectrum, will also play a role in the review and FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said, "President Bush's Executive Memorandum recognizes the importance of spectrum as an economic engine and underscores his commitment to putting spectrum to its highest and best use for the American people."