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Obama okays spectrum auction

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President Obama has nodded through the spectrum auction proposed by the National Broadband Plan, knocking back the idea of any freebies in favour for revenue-generating auctions.

Following best-practice PR, the 500MHz to be put on the auction block is being billed as a new initiative to open up the airwaves, but in fact it's all part of the plan that was proposed by the FCC back in March, but that was before Obama put his magic fingers on it.

"The President’s plan will nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum available to unleash the innovative potential of wireless broadband", says Larry Summers, director of Obama’s National Economic Council, commenting on the president appending his signature to the idea.

The plan calls for TV companies to hand over 120MHz by shifting their channels around, for which they'll get a share of the cash raised. Another 90MHz comes by allowing Harbinger and its friends to use frequencies previously reserved for satellite communications. 90MHz more is spectrum that was already scheduled to go under the hammer.

The next 200MHz gets squeezed out of the federal government and the Department of Defence. The details of how the FCC plans to do that won't be revealed until October, but some form of Administrated Incentive Pricing* seems likely.

The FCC's proposals also called for a national monitoring network to establish spectrum usage, but that costs money rather than raises it, so hasn't received the presidential nod just yet. ®

* Make up a price, force the existing user to pay it annually until they give up and move out – used to great effect by the UK's Ofcom.

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