The following is an excerpt of the article, which can be read in full here.
President Barack Obama wants to accelerate adoption of wireless broadband in the U.S. Last month he announced plans to put a big slice of spectrum up for auction, which would nearly double that available for commercial uses over the next 10 years. The added spectrum is needed because growth in broadband has shifted from wired connections to homes and offices to the millions more consumers who talk, text and entertain and inform themselves using wireless devices.
Offering 500 megahertz of spectrum for sale will certainly help speed up the wireless revolution. But that’s the easy part. The hard part: getting local governments to help out.
The powerful wireless devices that dominate the market–Apple‘s iPhone and iPad, Research in Motion‘s BlackBerry, Motorola‘s Droid–and the increasingly sophisticated applications that run on them will require at least 29 times the network bandwidth in 2015 than they use today, according to experts. But opening up more spectrum to meet the demand will be largely pointless if we can’t build the telecommunications networks quickly enough to meet bandwidth demand more effectively.
Ubiquitous and effective coverage will happen sooner if the country’s 70,000 municipalities heed the call in the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan and allow for more rapid expansion of high-speed wireless services. So far, few cities are listening. In the vast majority of them, wireless carriers must navigate a time-consuming patchwork of often opaque local regulations and convoluted land-use policies that impede corporate investment in network infrastructure. As a result, consumers must contend with dropped calls, slow data service and, in some places, no coverage at all.
In most California cities wireless network builders must obtain a conditional-use permit to erect cell towers or add new technologies to existing facilities. “The worst case has become the status quo,” says Michael Shonafelt, a land-use lawyer and advisor to the California Wireless Association.
Hearings can consume up to a year. Some of the time is rightly spent reviewing a proposed cell tower’s effects on the neighborhood’s aesthetics and other planning considerations. But when the cost of securing a conditional-use permit for one new cell tower in Los Angeles ranges from $50,000 to $75,000, the question as to whether there is a more efficient way to do business naturally arises.