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FCC chairman lobbies Pentagon for more spectrum

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski // Jacquelyn Martin/AP file photo

With the Defense Department using a wide swath of wireless spectrum, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said on Friday that he is personally lobbying the military to help free more airwaves for private companies.

Telecommunications companies say they are struggling to find enough spectrum to run ever-expanding networks, and Genachowski has made it one of his signature goals to "unleash" more spectrum for mobile broadband. Among the challenges is the Pentagon, which uses spectrum for many defense purposes, including radios and controlling unmanned aircraft.

At a press conference on Friday, Genachowski said he has recently taken to working with Pentagon officials on plans that would provide more spectrum to companies and help the military manage its resources.

"I do see the potential for win-win solutions," Genachowski said. Direct, high-level engagement with the Pentagon, he said, increases the likelihood that a compromise can be worked out.

The Pentagon has spent more than a decade battling what it sees as incursions on its airspace, and it won two major spectrum victories earlier this year. The Federal Communications Commission handed the Pentagon a Valentine's Day gift when it proposed to block LightSquared, a company whose network threatened to interfere with global positioning systems. Congress, meanwhile, decided not to include the Defense Department's prime 1755-1850 MHz band in spectrum to be auctioned to private companies under a payroll-tax deal.

The White House has proposed a plan that aims to strike a compromise between civilian agencies that want to expand broadband coverage and defense and law-enforcement officials fighting to protect the spectrum they use. Under the proposals, more spectrum would be shared among private and government organizations, rather than simply clearing the bandwidth and handing it to companies.

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