WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is backing a plan to nearly double the space available on the airwaves for wireless high-speed Internet traffic to keep up with ever-growing demand for video and other cutting-edge applications on laptops and mobile devices.
President Barack Obama on Monday committed the federal government to freeing up an additional 500 megahertz of radio spectrum for broadband over the next 10 years, with much of that auctioned off to commercial wireless carriers. The wireless industry currently holds roughly 500 megahertz of spectrum, but hasn't put all of it to use yet.
The White House memorandum marks an official endorsement of one of the key proposals in the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband plan released in March for bringing high-speed Internet access to all Americans.
The FCC also wants to free up more airwaves to head off what it says could be a serious spectrum shortage - particularly in dense, urban areas - as more and more Americans use iPhones and other popular wireless devices to access everything from Facebook pages to driving directions while on the go.
On Monday, the administration framed the matter as one of jobs and economic opportunity.
"America's future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum," Obama wrote in the presidential memorandum. "The world is going wireless, and we must not fall behind."
The administration is hoping to raise tens of billions of dollars by auctioning off more spectrum to commercial wireless carriers.