Congress Wants More Spectrum (and Broadband) From the FCC
Congress Wants More Spectrum (and Broadband) From the FCC
Congress Wants More Spectrum (and Broadband) From the FCC

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    How can we meet demand for spectrum and spur innovation?

    This question sums up what all the Representatives were asking at today’s
    FCC Oversight Hearing before the House Subcommittee on Communications and
    Technology—and it’s a really good question. 
    It shows that Congress is aware of the importance of wireless and wired
    technologies in the lives of consumers and businesses.  It also shows that they are eager to improve
    these technologies to promote competition, promote job creation, and help make
    our lives easier.  

    House Representatives asked thoughtful and insightful
    questions of all 5 FCC Commissioners on meeting the demand for spectrum, providing
    universal broadband service, promptly addressing issues, updating regulations
    to ensure competitive markets and innovation, and even the storms that have
    been sweeping the country. 

    Rep. Terry said early in the hearing:  it is “absolutely necessary” to have spectrum
    to meet growing demands. 

    How do we do
    this? Incentive auctions, according to Chairman Genachowski. 

    Rep. Eschoo agreed but urged the FCC to
    closely follow the Congressional intent to provide rules that will enhance
    competition, consumer choice, and innovation, while also providing new
    opportunities for unlicensed spectrum.

    Genachowski agreed with Eshoo that unlicensed
    is “extraordinarily successful”—noting that it gave us wifi—and
    promised to ensure that innovators and entrepreneurs will have unlicensed
    spectrum to pursue new technologies. 

    promise to provide unlicensed spectrum would surely lead to great innovation in
    the future, but some representatives questioned whether incentive auctions
    would be enough and encouraged the use of shared spectrum as an additional
    technique to address the spectrum crunch. 

    In the end, the representatives and the FCC came to some agreement that
    sharing spectrum is good, but not at the expense of clearing spectrum.

    You can’t talk about spectrum these days without talking
    about the proposed Verizon/SpectrumCo license transfers.  Rep. Waxman reiterated concerns of PK and
    other interest groups by urging the FCC to raise serious questions about the proposed
    transactions because of how the deals could harm competition.

    Concerns about meeting spectrum demand and encouraging
    innovation in the wireless market did not cause members of Congress to overlook
    the importance of wired technologies.  As
    Commissioner Rosenworcel explained, communications and media services,
    including broadband, are growing more complex and becoming integral parts of
    household budgets.  Most representatives
    are as dedicated as ever to making sure that all Americans have access to
    reliable and reasonably priced broadband services with money from the Universal
    Service Fund
    (USF).  Rep. Eshoo made it
    clear that the U.S. should be #1 in broadband and expressed gratitude to the
    FCC for its improvements in access around the country. 

    But details of USF may still need some work.  Reps. Terry and Christensen worry that the models
    used to determine funding are inaccurate or use incorrect data and rural
    broadband service providers will receive less funding as a result (meaning
    people might be left without service). 
    Rep. Barton disagreed, however, and was at a loss as to why USF still
    exists.  He thinks that almost all the population has service at
    reasonable prices.  Even if this were true, the FCC should keep broadband implementation as one of its
    top priorities until all of the population has service at reasonable prices—and most representatives at the hearing agreed.

    There was also lots of talk about special access—the high-capacity
    data links that are needed to provide service to some businesses and wireless
    towers.   Currently, businesses and wireless providers
    have to request access to these data links from incumbent phone providers.  Rep. Upton wondered whether there are
    sufficiently competitive alternatives to connect business and wireless services
    to the rest of the world, and how the Commission will gather data to determine this
    question when phone companies are loath to respond to data requests.  Chairman Genachowski said the FCC would
    gather data, but didn’t explain how, and Rep. Upton’s questions really went

    Talks about the weather—in the form of lost wireless and
    wired service
    —made it easy for anyone to relate to the concerns raised by the
    hearing.  With phone centers and 911
    emergency services interrupted because of the freak storms we’ve seen recently,
    Rep. Upton made it clear that the FCC needed data on the extent of the
    interruptions with the goal of preventing interruptions, something we’d all

    And of course, the hot topic of internet governance made a
    brief appearance in today’s hearing. 
    Chairman Walden and Commissioner McDowell both maintain that a multistakeholder
    approach to internet governance is best, and that ITU regulation will only be
    harmful.  PK wholeheartedly agrees.

    “We have to sometimes remind ourselves we’re in the 21st
    century, not the 19th, not the 20th” noted Rep. Eshoo.  With a slew of pointed questions, Congress
    appeared eager to move forward into the future of spectrum and broadband.  Let’s hope they work with the FCC to actually do so.