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Tech CEOs Call For Spectrum Reform

The nation's top tech execs are urging the Bush administration to bring the country's spectrum public policy into the 21st century.

According to a new report by the Technology CEO Council, a public policy advocacy group of IT executives, current public policy is creating an artificial spectrum scarcity that needs to be addressed to accommodate emerging wireless technologies.

"Our nation's wireless needs are too often governed by outdated regulations that hinder economic progress and innovation," Edward Zander, chairman and CEO of Motorola and chairman of the Technology CEO Council, said in a statement.

"We need to re-think our approach to radio spectrum to bring our national policy into the wireless era and ensure that spectrum is available for entrepreneurs, innovators and first responders," he added.

According to the report, more than 200 million Americans use spectrum daily to conduct business or stay in touch. It supports more than 3.6 million jobs.

The tech executives want Congress to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages public spectrum, and the National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA), which handles government uses, to analyze what spectrum bands are not being put to highest and best use.

For government bands not being used efficiently, the Technology CEO Council recommends reallocating the spectrum for other uses, including commercial use.

In addition, the council contends, the FCC should reduce service and technological restrictions on wireless licenses to promote the most flexible and robust uses of such licenses.

"We have the technology and techniques to significantly expand the use and usability of spectrum. What is needed is permission," the report states.

"A more enlightened and progressive policy approach can dramatically expand America's (and the world's) supply of precious radio spectrum -- despite the fact that it is, like any other natural resource, finite."

Both Congress and the Bush administration are working on the permission sought by the executives.

In July 2002, the Department of Commerce released a plan to make 90 MHz of spectrum available for 3G wireless services and how to make available additional spectrum at 5GHz for wireless data communications such as WiFi.

The administration has had to deal with objections from the military, which has been reluctant to surrender some of its spectrum for commercial use.

Congress, for its part, recently passed legislation to force broadcasters out of their current analog spectrum by 2009 to clear the space for wireless broadband providers and first responders.

"Congress, the FCC and the administration deserve credit for taking the initiative to address spectrum issues," Bruce Mehlman, executive director of the Technology CEO Council, said.

"For example, the just-passed DTV transition legislation will help our economy and our first responders' capabilities. But there is more to do in the year ahead, and we must not lose momentum."