Regulation or Innovation? Congress Will Weigh In On FCC Regs That Can Impact Advances In Technology And Wireless Access

19109887010_40b0dfa987_mOn November 17th, all five FCC commissioners are scheduled to appear at a Congressional hearing during which they will discuss the Commission’s work including the upcoming incentive auction and the open Internet order passed earlier this year.  This hearing is a very important opportunity for Congress to ensure the FCC’s recent actions on these issues serve the interests of the American people and our economy.

The economic landscape has changed drastically over the past few decades.  Advances in technology and broadband are changing consumer demand, and businesses and entrepreneurs must evolve in order to compete and thrive in today’s marketplace.  However, current FCC regulations are failing to keep up with these changes, and as a result are interfering with competitive industries’ efforts to innovate and grow.

For business owners, access to high-speed broadband enables increased efficiency of business operations, improved customer service, reduced cost, and the ability to reach new customers and markets.  Entrepreneurs also gain the flexibility to start and grow their businesses, whether they are working from an office, their home, or on the move.

The benefits of today’s broadband technology exist because of the hands-off regulatory approach the government applied to the Internet over twenty years ago.  This framework has a proven record of increasing private investment in new networks, enabling innovation to thrive, and expanding access to the highest quality broadband services to more consumers and businesses.

Unfortunately, the FCC could hurt this track record of success by changing course and adopting old regulations that were meant for the old telephone monopoly.  By saddling the Internet with price regulation micromanagement, among other things, the FCC is discouraging companies from building out their broadband infrastructures.  Similar policies have failed in Canada and the European Union.

The FCC’s regulatory overreach is a high-risk gamble. It puts consumers and businesses in harm’s way, risking the choice and lower costs we have experienced and benefitted from in the modern, broadband-connected world. Instead, we need to maintain the long-held, light touch policy. This approach will generate even more innovation and investment in our broadband infrastructure, crucial for business owners throughout the country.

Congress needs to hold the FCC to a high standard this Tuesday and ensure its actions help foster an innovative and competitive business environment.  This is the only way wants to provide consumers and business owners with access to the high-quality, affordable broadband services they need, while helping to grow our overall economy.

The Future of Spectrum


By Annie Wilson, Intern

On The Hill July 21st, Meredith Attwell Baker, president of The Wireless Association (CTIA) gave an overview on the future of wireless spectrum in context of the increasing demand for smartphone wireless connection. In her piece, posted on the Congress Blog, Baker outlines the steps needed to ensure that the mobile broadband structure remains steady and reliable with increasing projected use over time.

Spectrum, for the majority who are unfamiliar with the concept, are the radio frequencies that allow for us to operate wirelessly and have access to all of the data we have at our disposal when using our smartphones. Smartphones run on and have their infrastructure built on spectrum; it is a necessary component of a smartphone’s basic operations.

Looking at today’s mobile climate, more than half of the internet traffic comes from mobile phones and the US leads the world in 4G services and applications. According to Baker, more than 1/3 of Americans claim that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is check their mobile device, before brushing their teeth and having a cup of coffee. By 2019, wireless companies estimate that this data-traffic will increase six-fold over record 2014 levels.

Some measures have already been taken to accommodate this trend. Wireless carriers continue to improve their networks and invest in their services (adding up to over $32 billion last year overall) and they aggressively deployed 4G LTE all over the country. However, in order to maintain this growing trend, more steps are needed to ensure spectrum security overtime; Congress has recognized this need.

In 2012, Congress directed the FCC to conduct an incentive auction in an effort to repurpose existing spectrum being used by broadcasters and as a test to market spectrum. However, instead of bidding on empty spectrum bands wireless providers have to meet the price of television broadcasters in order to free up spectrum. In order for this endeavor to succeed, Baker foresees three necessary steps:

  1. The FCC must maximize the amount of unused licensed spectrum made available
  2. The FCC must make an effort to minimize uncertainty when wireless companies are making bids. If companies are potentially investing billions in this spectrum, it requires the necessary due diligence on the part of the FCC to make sure that investors know what they’re bidding for.
  3. The FCC must make sure that wireless carriers can access their purchased spectrum as quickly as possible and without unnecessary hoops to jump through. Baker sees this as a necessary measure to instill confidence in their investors and promote the necessary participation in the auction for it to thrive and succeed.

Baker is hoping that this auction model will accommodate for the new generation and demand for mobile technology, while also raising billions to reduce the deficit.

To read the full article, please click here.

Spectrum is vital for wireless – and more is needed! [GUEST POST]

by Robert Shrum,

Earlier this week, The Brattle Group released a study highlighting the essential value of licensed spectrum to America’s economy, job creation, technological innovation, and most specifically, the wireless sector and consumers.

For a quick refresher, “spectrum” refers to the radio frequencies that allow hundreds of millions of people to use wireless service across the country. Only a finite amount of those frequencies are usable for mobile broadband service today, creating heavy demand for access to this critical resource. The spectrum used by your wireless provider is licensed (meaning dedicated for specific network use.) This licensed spectrum is the crucial highway that all wireless network information travels on – without it, your service wouldn’t exist. Chances are the phone you are using is dependent upon spectrum sold at auction in 2006 and 2008.

Not surprising, the licensed spectrum currently being used by providers is incredibly valuable. In the report, The Brattle Group reveals, “We estimate that the economic value of the 645.5 MHz of licensed spectrum is almost $500 billion.” Even more shocking is the finding that the current value of social welfare from the benefits of wireless services generated by licensed spectrum is 10 to 20 times that of its direct market value (between $5 trillion and $10 trillion).

Additionally, this licensed spectrum has a huge positive impact on the national economy, resulting in over $400 billion in economic activity per year throughout the country due to wireless companies and industry employees. This figure does not even include the economic benefits from innovations in mobile education, mobile health, and other similar business and services now reliant on licensed spectrum. That additional impact is especially evident in states where the booming app economy is a key driver of economic activity and job creation.

As more of these wireless-reliant industries emerge and wireless devices such as smartphones and smart devices continue to advance in functionality, larger amounts of licensed spectrum will be required to operate networks and transport information.What is being done to meet this rising demand? In the paper, the Brattle Group notes that a net of 98.5 megahertz of licensed spectrum has been reallocated for commercial use since the 2010 release of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, which called for an additional 300 MHz of spectrum to be made available for licensed use by this year and a total of 500 MHz by 2020.

To help meet these targets, the FCC has scheduled an incentive auction for next year where television broadcasters will be able to voluntarily sell their spectrum to the FCC, which will then repackage and auction it off to wireless providers. A similar auction resulted in more than $40 billion in proceeds last winter.These auctions are significant steps forward, but unfortunately won’t meet the full demands of American consumers. It is urgent that Congress, the FCC and NTIA work in collaboration with the private sector to identify a future pipeline of additional spectrum for licensed use before it’s too late and the looming wireless traffic jam brings your smartphone to a screeching halt. We have no plan for after 2020 as a nation to address our mobile needs. It is time to start that dialogue.