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Obama wants to wring fat dollar from mobile operators

Drove my Chevy to the ($4.8bn) levy

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President Obama has proposed squeezing $4.8bn out of the mobile network operators with a levy on the spectrum for which they have already paid, or thought they had.

The levy starts at $50m in 2009, rising to $200m in 2010 and eventually hitting $550m a year per company - raising $4.8bn over the next decade, which could go some way towards addressing America's $1.7trn budget deficit.

The information is slipped in on page 132 of the President's budget under the line item "Spectrum license user fee", as spotted by Reuters, and will certainly require Congressional approval as well as a government ready to fight the inevitable legal challenges the network operators would be remiss not to mount against such flagrant exploitation.

Not that one can blame Obama - more money has to come from somewhere, and mobile network operators are one of the few groups who are doing OK in the current economy, not to mention being monolithic companies who engender little in the way of public sympathy. But the long-term subscriptions that have served to protect network operators from the economic freefall will be up for renewal soon, and it seems unlikely the industry is going to hand over just shy of $5bn without a fight.

We'll get more details of the proposal in the spring, and the operators aren't commenting yet, but you can be sure their lawyers are pleased to see their services will continue to be in demand throughout such turbulent times. ®

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