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Super Committee to White House: We Need More Commercial Bandwidth

By Chris McGovern, Manager, Research Development, Connected Nation

(October 11, 2011) - Last week, four members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “Super Committee”) sent a letter to the Obama Administration, requesting that it “make more efficient use of federal government spectrum and reallocate some of it for commercial broadband use.” Not only would auctioning off this spectrum help increase federal revenues (the goal of the Super Committee), but it would also free up spectrum that mobile broadband providers can buy (via auction) to provide better service to more Americans.

Recent proposals to auction off licensed bandwidth currently owned by television broadcasters have stalled over concerns that selling that bandwidth would increase interference and decrease service area for television broadcasters.

While this letter from Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Sen. Pat Toomey, and Sen. John Kerry endorses a voluntary auction of television bandwidth, they say that more bandwidth will be needed than can be provided through these voluntary spectrum auctions. With a growing number of Americans using their mobile devices in ways that require more bandwidth (like streaming music or videos), mobile providers say they need more spectrum.

According to new research from Connected Nation, 52% of adult cell phone owners say they subscribe to a service on their cell phone that allows them to access the Internet, and 43% of all adults say they use mobile broadband service (either on their cell phone or on a laptop or tablet computer).  These figures differ from state to state, though; for example, only 38% of Iowa adults who own a cell phone subscribe to an Internet service on their cell phone, and fewer than one-third (32%) of Iowa adults use mobile broadband service. At the same time, 14% of Iowa adults who use their cell phone to access the Internet (representing about 84,000 Iowans) say they are not satisfied with their current mobile broadband speeds.