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Managing editor's note: This article is part of the 2007 project to build an open library of research and data to inform Sen. Dick Durbin's national broadband policy project. Please help out by expanding these articles - a good place to start is to look through the links listed under "external resources" in the article's sections and/or at the end of the article.

Advances in wireless technology are radically transforming the rules governing the public airwaves. Television and radio broadcasters were once the masters of the key radio frequencies. But in the 109th Congress, Congress set a deadline for the transition to digital television, which frees up many of the choicest portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This article focuses on key spectrum legislation from the 109th and 110th Congresses, as well as proposals before the Federal Communications Commission to build commercial and public safety wireless broadband networks to deliver voice, video and data services.



Spectrum is popularly known as the airwaves. It refers to that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum relevant to communications. In the United States, spectrum use is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. The entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum used for radio, television, cellular and wireless communications runs from 3 kilohertz (khz) to 300 Gigahertz (GHz).