Powell: Wireless vital to broadband future

FCC Chairman Michael Powell says it's critical that "wireless play a major role" in reaching the goal of making high-speed Net access available to all Americans by 2007.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
2 min read
The Federal Communications Commission is stepping up efforts to establish wireless as a viable broadband option to cable and DSL in order to make high-speed Internet access available to all Americans by 2007.

To achieve those goals, set by President Bush, the agency is looking at reallocating spectrum for broadcast television to wireless and expanding bands in the 5GHz range, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a speech earlier this week at the FCC Wireless Broadband Forum in Washington, D.C.

Cable and DSL services have helped bring broadband access to about 26.9 million Americans--a significant increase from just a couple of years ago. But wireless services are expected to dramatically improve that growth.

The Bush administration's goals "only will be met by the use of every possible tool in our broadband tool kit," Powell said. "It will be critical that wireless play a major role in our ability to provide these benefits to the American consumer."

Powell added that wireless has certain technical advantages that allow companies to reach consumers in ways that wired services can't. And by not relying on any one technology, the threat of monopoly control and bottlenecks can be avoided.

The FCC also is working to create a spectrum policy that's efficient and productive for broadband growth.

The allocation of spectrum has been a particularly touchy issue in the technology and communications industries, because there is only a finite amount available. Some critics have complained that spectrum has been poorly distributed, stifling innovation and cutting short the effectiveness of new technologies. With new wireless technologies on the way, such as EvDO (Evolution Data Only) and WiMax, issues like interference and limited range will likely become more of a problem.

"From Day 1, we have been working hard to change the traditional 'command and control' approach that does not respect innovation and the need to move spectrum to its highest and best uses," Powell said.

"The bottom line is: All the raw material is there, the recognition is there, and the understanding of its importance has begun to gel," Powell said. "Now, all that is left is the easy part of actually making it happen."