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.


Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Praises the FCC for Recognizing the Vital Importance of Unlicensed Spectrum

    August 6, 2015
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission voted on several items pertaining to next year’s Mobile Broadband Incentive Auction. Pursuant to the auction, the FCC will allow broadcasters to sell valuable spectrum, which will then be repurposed for mobile use. Today’s rules will also make more spectrum available for unlicensed uses, like Wi-Fi, in the post-auction TV band.
  • Record-Breaking Spectrum Auction Disproves Industry's Title II Fears

    January 29, 2015
    WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission's auction of AWS-3 airwaves closed on Thursday after fetching a record-breaking $44.9 billion in bids. While the federal agency has yet to announce the winners of the auction, bidders included the nation's largest wireless carriers.
  • Free Press Action Fund Testifies in Senate: Give Wireless Users More Control

    February 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON — Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood will testify before Congress today that the little competition that exists in the U.S. wireless market is a result of smart intervention from antitrust authorities and the Federal Communications Commission. 

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  • Six Priorities for the Wheeler FCC

    As Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly arrive at the Federal Communications Commission, they face historic challenges and opportunities to shape the ways we connect and communicate for decades to come.

    Here’s how the FCC should ensure that our public network and public airwaves provide better choices and more voices — by maintaining universal communications service, increasing media diversity, supporting local news and emphasizing political transparency.

    November 6, 2013
  • Public Interest Incentive Auction Letter

    Free Press, National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation, Public Knowledge and Writers Guild of America West sent a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to urge the Committee to ensure that all providers have a meaningful chance to participate in the upcoming spectrum auctions.

    July 23, 2013
  • FCC Should Foster Public Benefits of Spectrum

    In these reply comments, Free Press and others urge the FCC to promote meaningful choice in the wireless market by ensuring full 700 MHz Band interoperability.
    July 23, 2012
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News from Around the Web

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  • Broadband

    Access to high-speed internet service — also known as broadband — is a basic public necessity, just like water or electricity.

    Yet despite its importance, broadband access in the United States is far from universal. Millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the digital divide, unable to tap into the political, economic and social resources of the internet.

  • Cable

    Two decades ago, something unusual happened.

    Consumers were irate about their cable bills, which were increasing at nearly three times the rate of inflation. And Congress actually did something — adopting in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion the 1992 Cable Act. The law resulted in lower cable bills, saving consumers $3 billion in just over a year’s time.

  • Cybersecurity

    Our right to private communications is a cornerstone of American democracy. But with heightened awareness in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, technological advances have continued allowing the government to expand its reach into our private lives via electronic surveillance and data-mining programs. New laws and policies introduced in the last decade have eroded our civil liberties online.

    Congress has a poor track record when it comes to cybersecurity legislation. The bills introduced so far give the government way too much power to intrude on our privacy online.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good