Today, the US government hopes to have a little sale and raise $15 billion. What are they selling? Air. Well, to be more precise, they are selling the right to use radio waves in certain frequencies that travel through that air in certain parts of the country. According to the laws of the land, the radio spectrum belongs to the citizens, and the FCC is charged with managing those resources.
The traditional bidders will be there in force: the cell phone service providers. But this time, television is getting into the bidding. Threatened by telephone companies that intend to distribute television programming to customers, the cable and satellite companies are looking to buy up radio frequencies so that they can provide wireless broadband as a means to distribute content to their customers.
Today’s auction is just the undercard event, however. The headliner comes in 2008, when the feds auction off the analog television broadcast frequencies in preparation to going digital-only in 2009. If wireless broadband becomes a reality, then the “last mile” problems of using wires or optic fiber to connect homes to content distribution will all go away.