Expensive Airways


Think our airwaves are free? Guess again. They may be invisible but are worth billions.

According to The Wall St. Journal, the Federal Communications Commission's auction of wireless spectrum licenses has collected at least $34 billion in bids, turning a sleepy affair into a windfall for taxpayers and an enormous commitment of capital for carriers.

What's behind this incredible demand is your addiction to smartphones that let you wirelessly watch YouTube videos, stream music and share photos. The Journal describes the spectrum as lanes on a highway. Wireless carriers buy licenses from the Government to use it, and when growing traffic leads to congestion, the have to acquire more.

AT&T and Verizon are among carriers bidding for more wireless data capacity. Because it is in short supply with high demand, bids are skyrocketing. According to an industry trade group, data usage on cell phones is up and astonishing 732% in the past few years. Wonder when those sky high bids will wind up on your cell phone bill.