President Obama may still be facing many questions over the NSA surveillance efforts of phone and internet users, but he's moving forward with another government technology effort that's not likely to draw quite as much controversy. In an executive order announced today, the president issued a memorandum ordering the government to free up a huge chunk of the wireless spectrum currently reserved for federal agencies and use it to expand wireless broadband internet access for individuals across the country. "These efforts will provide access to more spectrum for wireless broadband providers and equipment vendors as they respond to increasingly rapid consumer adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other wireless devices," reads a White House fact sheet on the new initiative.
"within 10 years."
The government will be awarding $100 million for researching new spectrum-sharing plans through agencies including DARPA and the National Science Foundation. But don't expect wireless service to improve in the near-term. According to the president's order, the Department of Commerce, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the FCC have to come up with a plan for how to open up government-controlled spectrum "within 10 years."
To get to that point, the Commerce Department has to come up with its own plan in six months for what regulations will need to be lifted or adjusted. Then, a year after that, the other agencies involved have to specifically state how their spectrum is currently being used (or not) and areas that could be opened up to the commercial and nongovernmental sectors. The move comes on the heels of another recent push by the White House to beef up broadband access in schools.