Proposed Kerry-Snowe 'RADIOS' bill kickstarts Obama broadband plan

It appears as if the first phase of President Obama's plan to bring high-speed mobile broadband to a majority of the nation within five years is underway, as Sens. John Kery (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) submitted legislation this week that calls for both a spectrum inventory and incentive auctions to be conducted by the Federal Communications Commisison.

The Reforming Airwaves by Developing Incentives and Opportunistic Sharing (RADIOS) Act sets into motion events that ultimately would result in $10.7 billion being allocated--via auction proceeds--to pay for a wireless public safety network for first responders and other various healthcare workers. Specifically, $3 billion would be set aside for a Wireless Innovation fund to support development of mobile applications for, among other things, healthcare, as previously reported by EnterpriseMobileToday.

"Freeing our nation's airwaves to run at full capacity will help unleash innovation and maintain America's leadership in communications technology," Kerry said in a statement. "We know that our nation's airwaves are a finite resource, and it's more important than ever to use them as efficiently as possible."

President Obama outlined the initiative in a speech at Northern Michigan University last month. Overall, the auction is expected to raise $27.8 billion, with $9.6 billion going toward deficit reduction over the next 10 years.

In a related story that could have an affect on dollars going toward broadband support, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday in favor of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The notice seeks public comment on whether or not broadband, as well as bundled telecom services, should be included in the FCC's Lifeline Assistance and Link-Up America programs--which provide monthly subsidies to poor U.S. residents for phone services--reports IDG News. The programs are part of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which ballooned to $1.3 billion in 2010, from $162 million in 1997.

While some, like commission member Robert McDowell, have floated the idea of a cap for the program--calling such a financial trend "unsustainable"--others, like FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn believe that such growth was inevitable.

"Given the economic downturn over the last several years, it is not surprising that the fund has grown," Clyburn said, according to IDG News. "We would be a on a fool's errand if we think we can address both the voice and the broadband requirements [of low-income residents] while simultaneously capping the fund."

To learn more:
- read this Datamation article
- here's the Kerry-Snowe bill (.pdf)
- here's an accompanying announcement for the bill
- check out this EnterpriseMobileToday piece about Obama's initial ideas
- here's Obama's remarks to Northern Michigan University
- read this IDG News story