When we talk about spectrum, we’re talking about the channels and frequencies used to transmit signals to your phone, your tablet, your TV or any wireless device.
Both established companies and startups have long vied for access to these public airwaves, which are a precious national resource. Mobile phone companies, radio and TV broadcasters, satellite operators, Wi-Fi networks, first responders and private companies with their own radio systems all use different swaths of spectrum.
While broadcasters and mobile phone companies have government-issued licenses for certain portions of the airwaves, other swaths are open, meaning that any company can develop a product —like a cordless home phone, Bluetooth headset, baby monitor or remote control — that utilizes this open space without any need for a government license.
Broadcasters and mobile phone companies have licenses for most of the best spectrum. But advances in technology have made it possible for all of us to access the airwaves through community networks, Wi-Fi signals, innovative new devices and other more localized access points.
As new technology enables more efficient spectrum use, freed-up airwaves can be used to provide high-speed internet access. They have the potential to unleash the mobile Web, bridge the digital divide and provide universal, affordable internet access for all Americans.
To help the next generation of wireless technology take root, we need to ensure that spectrum held by companies like AT&T and Verizon is put to use in the public interest — and we need to make more spectrum available outside these companies’ control.