After three years and a concerted effort to push through incentive auction legislation, Congress has finally accepted that practically everyone and their grandparents have gone mobile and there’s no turning back. If you want your apps to keep working, appreciate calls that don’t drop, enjoy speedy data transfers and online videos that don’t endlessly buffer, you are one of many millions of Americans who should be thrilled about the action taken by Congress to make more spectrum available.
Last week, Congress passed a provision in the payroll tax bill to free up underutilized spectrum. To many Americans, the way Washington works is often times confusing. It made much more sense for the Supercommittee on Deficit Reduction to include spectrum in its grandiose plans than it did to authorize auctions through a payroll tax extension. The reality of the situation is that most of us don’t really care how the sausage gets made; we just want to enjoy it.
With overwhelming support for this provision from the tech industry, the proceeds of these voluntary incentive auctions are expected to generate more than $25 billion in revenue.
President Obama weighed in on the issue, stating, "[These auctions] will help the United States out-innovate the rest of the world by unleashing mobile broadband." At a time when government action was needed most, the passage of this bill will make available much needed spectrum to fuel and strengthen our wireless networks.
The stats coming out of various studies and reports show the exponential growth of the industry in startling clarity. There are more wireless devices being used in the U.S. than people. Today’s devices utilize anywhere from 24-120% more bandwidth than their predecessors with no end in sight.
The recently passed incentive auction legislation is a win for the wireless broadband industry, people who love their mobile devices and the U.S. economy at large.
At the end of the day, here are the five things you should know about the renewal of the payroll tax bill:
1. Our leadership is strong.
Under Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Fred Upton (R-MI), Congress has authorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Chairman Julius Genachowski to move forward with voluntary incentive auctions for spectrum. While they don’t agree on everything, all sides grasp the seriousness and immediacy of the issue and sent a message loud and clear to the American people that our leadership in Washington intends to support policies that drive and support innovation.
2. TV doesn’t need it, mobile does.
Broadcast TV companies have a stockpile of spectrum that will be applied to its highest and best use rather than languishing in the vault. This benefits the American consumer to a great degree. Innovation isn’t coming out of the broadcast television world. It’s coming from lofts in San Francisco, startups in Silicon Valley, and garages in Modesto.
3. The clock is ticking.
We need spectrum freed up immediately and deployed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we face a long road ahead as many analysts predict a 7 to 10 year timeframe before the spectrum gets deployed. Success can be obtained through bipartisan support and will require concessions from Congress and the FCC in order to see this FCC, our strongest in decades, lead us to the "promised land." This process needs to be about spurring innovation and keeping Americans connected, employed, and globally competitive, not about political agendas.
4. The race for global competitiveness has already started, and the U.S. has fallen behind.
Simply put, government gave broadcast TV spectrum for free decades ago—far before anyone could even envision the explosion in mobile innovation and long before there were tablets and apps. The spectrum flailed in purgatory for far too long. While other countries embraced an aggressive tech agenda, the U.S. succeeded in spite of its own policies. We’re back, and we’re gunning for the top of the leader board.
5. Infrastructure is your friend.
Our mobile devices are fueled by what Chairman Genachowski calls the "visible" and "invisible" infrastructure. Cell towers are the visible infrastructure. The invisible infrastructure includes spectrum and Wi-Fi. We focus on the fact that innovation and consumer happiness ride on the rails of our nation’s networks. So when our wireless networks are strong, so is America.
The effects of last week’s Congressional action will be felt across the entire country when this spectrum is finally deployed. California’s consumers and business community will be one of the largest beneficiaries as our state is the heart and soul of today’s innovation economy. While we are headed in the right direction, we need to keep the pressure on and continually remind our elected leaders and their appointees of what it is we need to be successful—more spectrum. This is not only today’s issue, but tomorrow’s as well. In time, through further innovation, creative business solutions and a common sense regulatory environment, we can and will overcome the dreaded spectrum crunch.