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App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

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February 26, 2008 11:27 AM

Hey FCC: Don't Give All That Auction Money to the Treasury!

It looks like the FCC's wireless spectrum auction is nearing its end as bidding is slowing to a stop in round 101.

For those not in the know, this initiative is auctioning off the wireless spectrum that's slated to be freed up early next year as broadcast TV makes the transition from analog to digital.

And in terms of raw dollars, it's been a smashing success. The thresholds that were put in place to guarantee spectrum could only be won with sufficiently high bids, and they've now almost all been surpassed.

Originally, the FCC was charged with the goal of putting at least $10 billion into the US Treasury from these auctions. Today, total bidding stands just below $20 billion.

So let me say it again: why are we putting money raised from selling spectrum for communications into the same pot of money that goes to fund the million and one other things the government does? Why don't we take at least some of that money and invest in our communications infrastructure?

With these billions we could lay a lot of fiber, or cover wide swathes of rural America in multi-megabit wireless, or pursue programs that help educate and inspire the public about the use of broadband in order to increase demand for and participation all the wonderful things the Internet makes possible.

I know that much of this money has already been allocated by the government for other purposes. But my guess is that those allocations were based on initial estimates, which proved to be low.

So now that there's more money available, how should we spent it? Is the best option to just shovel it into the general fund where its impact will be diluted across all the responsibilities of government, or shouldn't we be considering the possibility of taking at least the overrun and applying to initiatives that will help bolster America's communications?

I mean, what could be more important than that? And if you think about it, this wouldn't have to be a matter of investing in communications for communications sake. For example, we could identify the problem areas that Congress would want to spend the money on and show them how we can find solutions of many, if not all, of these problems through the utilization of broadband.

You want to bolster homeland security? Fine, let's build a virtual fence of motion sensitive cameras connected to the Internet and therefore accessible from anywhere.

You want to improve government services? Good, then let's make all public meetings available as webcasts online and try to transition all instances where paper forms are required to websites that can eliminate lines and waste.

You want better healthcare? Great, then let's not only fund broadband networks to hospitals, let's focus on equipping medical professionals with the tools needed to utilize that connectivity, like electronic medical records and patient monitoring applications.

You want to expand educational opportunities? Fantastic, let's make sure that all schools have access to 100Mbps and work towards further integrating the use of information technology into the classroom.

I mean really, this is just too easy and obvious. And think of all the good that could be done in any or all of these areas with the $10 billion overrun these auctions have realized.

So if anyone's listening at the FCC or in Congress: let's do the right thing and keep at least some of the money raised by these communications auctions focused on bolstering communications in America.


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