Bush Orders Review of Radio Airwaves Use

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush ordered a broad review Thursday of how government and industry can better use radio airwaves, which are growing congested by signals from cell phones, wireless gadgets and the military.

Bush directed the Commerce Department to lead the yearlong initiative and produce recommendations for legislation and other policy changes to promote more efficient use of airwaves.

The radio spectrum is a ``vital and limited national resource'' needed for economic growth, scientific research and homeland security, Bush said.

``The existing legal and policy framework for spectrum management has not kept pace with the dramatic changes in technology,'' Bush said in a memo to federal agencies. ``We must unlock the economic value and entrepreneurial potential of U.S. spectrum assets while ensuring that sufficient spectrum is available to support critical government functions.''

Bush said the way government now reviews every change in airwaves use is ``a process that is often slow and inflexible and can discourage the introduction of new technology.''

The Commerce Department is to hold a series of public meetings to develop recommendations for airwaves use by local governments and industry. To study federal spectrum use, that department will guide a task force that includes representatives from more than a dozen executive branch departments and agencies.

The cell phone and wireless industries, in need of increasing amounts of airwaves space, welcomed the announcement.

``This is probably the most comprehensive look at spectrum policy the government has ever taken,'' said Tom Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. ``The tools we have for formulating spectrum policy are broken and we look forward to working with the task force.''

The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees U.S. airwaves not used by the federal government, will have a consulting role in the review.

In April, the FCC doubled the airwaves available for emergency and public safety workers, giving a boost to police seeking better crisis communications and firefighters wanting to send video from inside burning buildings.

The agency decided last month to allow cell phone companies and others to lease unused portions of their airwaves, letting them make deals for slices of spectrum to fill cell phone dead zones or provide wireless services to certain locations for limited times.