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US plan would reclaim TV airwaves for iPhone

Shutting the spectrum gap

The US Federal Communications Commission is considering a plan that would reclaim some precious airwaves from the country's television broadcasters and reinvent them as wireless broadband.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FCC intends to release the plan in February as part of an effort to ensure that there's enough wireless bandwidth for the America [sic] of the future. "The record is very clear that we're facing a looming spectrum gap," said Blair Levin, who oversees the plan, part of a wider push to expand US broadband.

The plan would involve the FCC buying spectrum back from TV folk and then auctioning it off to wireless folk.

The FCC has already opened up the television "white spaces" as unlicensed spectrum, hoping to create a kind of "WiFi on steroids." But the new plan creates vast swathes of licensed wireless broadband, providing more bandwidth for the likes of AT&T and Verizon.

Alongside God and Dolly Parton, the nation's TV broadcasters vehemently opposed the white spaces move, and you can bet they'll do the same with the proposed plan to take back even more spectrum.

Of course, the FCC would compensate TV broadcasters for the spectrum - and it would likely shell out additional dough to move citizens onto cable and satellite TV. According to a new study from the Consumer Electronics Association, the FCC would spend $20bn reclaiming all the TV airwaves. But it could pull in a cool $62bn with a re-auction.

A nation needs broadband. We guess. But this is all rather amusing when you consider that the FCC just spent $2.15bn to move the country onto digital broadcast TV. ®

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