President Obama put the weight of the Oval Office behind a plan to free up another 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless data services Monday, touting the benefits of the “wireless broadband revolution” as he ordered federal agencies to work together to free more of the airwaves.

“Expanded wireless broadband access will trigger the creation of innovative new businesses, provide cost-effective connections in rural areas, increase productivity, improve public safety, and allow for the development of mobile telemedicine, telework, distance learning, and other new applications that will transform Americans’ lives,” Obama said in a signed presidential directive.

Consumers are flocking to buy smartphones, tablet computers and other wireless gadgets. But without a robust wireless network, those devices can’t perform s advertised, as iPhone users frustrated with dropped calls and slow Web connections on AT&T’s network can attest. Obama’s announcement, which administration officials called the federal government’s most ambitious effort ever to free up spectrum, is designed to head off broader problems and accommodate the booming market for data-hungry devices.

The directive orders the Commerce department and the Federal Communications Commission to figure out how to free up and repurpose 500 MHz of spectrum over the next 10 years as a way to fight off a “looming” bandwidth crunch. From there the country will “use our American ingenuity to wring abundance from scarcity, by finding ways to use spectrum more efficiently,” Obama said.

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