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How Congress Can Bridge America's Digital Divide | Commentary

To meet the untold demand future innovations may bring, these government agencies — most notably the Department of Defense — must unleash some of their spectrum. President Barack Obama’s recent directive to federal agencies to increase the efficiency of their spectrum use and other measures to make more spectrum available for commercial use was an important step toward reaching this objective.

The FCC has also undertaken a crucial endeavor to free up more spectrum by conducting groundbreaking incentive auctions. It is a complicated process, but the FCC is working tirelessly to get it right. The process would essentially require TV broadcasters to tell the FCC what they are willing to give up, wireless companies will bid on that spectrum, and revenues will pay the broadcasters, fund a long-awaited public safety network and help to bring down our nation’s debt. Wireless companies will use the spectrum they acquire to increase the speed and capacity of their mobile broadband networks.

These efforts could help position our country for a future in which more Americans, from all walks of life, are able to experience all that broadband has to offer. Therefore, lawmakers must insist today that those incentive auctions be designed in such a way that they are open to all bidders, without any arbitrary conditions. Only then will we be able to ensure the spectrum is acquired by those who will put it to its best use to the benefit of more Americans and close the digital divide for good.

Former Rep. Eva M. Clayton represented North Carolina’s 1st District from 1992 to 2003 and served as assistant secretariat general at the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome.

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