Monday, June 28, 2010

Adding Lanes on the Information Super-Highway

The Obama administration announced on Monday that it would be freeing up some 500 megahertz of radio spectrum for broadband over the next ten years. Much of that bandwidth will likely be auctioned off to the wireless industry. As of this writing the wireless industry occupies around 500 megahertz of bandwidth and it has yet to tap out on its' usage.

The announcement was part of a larger initiative that was unveiled by the administration in March that intends to bring high-speed Internet access to all Americans. Wi-Fi is considered to be particularly crucial to bringing broadband into rural areas where it is less cost-effective to build landline networks.

Rather like a freeway expansion plan that is drafted to accommodate projected traffic growth, this plan has been created in part as an effort to head off a serious spectrum shortage. And just as it is with real traffic, virtual traffic is getting particularly congested in dense, urban areas.

Between desktop computers, iPhones, iPads, and laptops, users are currently jamming up a large segment of the bandwidth that's available in urban centers. With people checking sports scores on their iPad, twittering on their phones and everyone's computer online practically around the clock, the information super-highway begins to resemble the 101/405 interchange on Friday afternoon (that is an L.A. reference, for you non-Angelenos out there).

The administration's plan to increase the bandwidth would in theory take high-speed Internet to some new areas and open up the traffic flow in areas it is already present in. Of course bandwidth doesn't come for free.

The administration is attempting to persuade television and radio broadcasters to hand over bandwidth they are not using which would then be auctioned off. The broadcasters would then be given a share of the proceeds from the auction.

Other shares of bandwidth are expected to come from within the government from agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Interestingly, the government's plan to expand high-speed Internet around the nation could have other surprising benefits. The government currently intends to use the proceeds from the auction to fund infrastructure projects such as a high-speed rail system.

Whether or not, or how well it will all pan out, of course, remains to be seen. Still, the notion of some expanded channels for information to flow on is hopeful. That that information may flow to places it as of yet doesn't is also hopeful. And the idea that the Internet could give something back as far as expanding real world infrastructure is positively brilliant.

Now if they could figure out a solution for that 405/101 interchange, we'd really be making progress.

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