Senators Introduce Wireless Broadband Bill

Allen, Boxer want FCC to set aside contiguous chunk of spectrum for unlicensed use of wireless broadband devices. Senators Aim to Wirelessly Jumpstart Broadband
Posted January 15, 2003

Roy Mark

Senators George Allen (R.-Va.) and Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) introduced legislation Tuesday night to promote a wireless approach to broadband deployment. Known as the Jumpstart Broadband Act, the bill calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allocate not less than 255 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band for unlicensed use by wireless broadband devices.

Allen said the 5 gigahertz band contains favorable "propagation and power levels" to provide reliable wireless service. The legislation also directs the FCC to establish minimum rules of interference protection for devices in that spectrum and to ensure that Department of Defense systems operating in that spectrum are not compromised.

Allen and Boxer claim the innovations and advances in the development of unlicensed wireless, radio-based networks (currently known as WiFi), offer an additional means of delivering data at high speed and also allow new business models for delivering broadband connectivity to emerge.

"The goal of the Jumpstart Broadband Act is to create an environment that embraces innovation and encourages the adoption of next-generation wireless broadband Internet devices," Allen said in introducing the bill to the Senate. "Most importantly, our legislation will build confidence among consumers, investors and innovators in the telecommunications and technology industries to eventually make the broadband dream a reality."

Allen said the "if you build it, they will come" business model has not materialized for the telecommunications industry and is one of the reasons for the current telecom recession, adding that "fanciful expectations like these have left this country with Internet bandwidth capacities that no levels of demand can sustain."

He said the bill is designed to get Congress to rethink the broadband distribution debate. In the 107th Congress, the debate over broadband primarily focused only on two platforms, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable and the regulatory treatment of those services.

"This perspective fails to consider that alternative modes or other technologies are available that can jumpstart consumer-driven investment and demand in broadband services," Allen said. "I think it is beneficial to shift the policy discussion away from this debate and focus on something positive Congress can do that fosters innovation, stimulates the technology and telecom sectors, and encourages the adoption of broadband services."

Allen added, "Over this past few years Congress, and specifically the Senate, have been locked in debate over the best approach to promote and encourage widespread broadband adoption. There is no doubt that consumers, businesses and government officials fully recognize the importance of broadband to our communications capabilities and the economy. Indeed, the proliferation of next-generation broadband Internet connections will reinvigorate growth in the technology and telecommunications industries and improve our lives."

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