Sparing over spectrum

Date posted: August 15, 2011

Electronic devices have expanded tremendously in recent years, with cell phones, pagers and mobile broadcasters leading the growth. But this growth is creating crowded airwaves, says N.C. State University economist Mike Walden.

“A lot of people don’t realize there’s actually a fixed amount of radio frequencies — or what’s called spectrum — in the airspace, in the airwaves. And the federal government controls this, and the federal government also controls how those radio frequencies are allocated to different uses.

“And … the mobile service providers’ use has gone way up. And so those folks are saying, ‘Hey, we need more space on the spectrum.’ And where are they going to get it? Well, they’ve proposed to take it away from television broadcasters.

“Obviously the television broadcasters don’t want to do that. They argue that if they get less, less of the radio frequencies or air space, the quality of their broadcasts will go down. But the government has proposed an auction. They’ve proposed that the T.V. broadcasters auction off some of their space to the mobile service providers, but this is not yet set. This is not yet coming.

“There’s been a lot of controversy over this. So, this, this is actually a big debate behind the scenes as we increase use of the radio airwaves. So, all I can say right now is stay tuned.”

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