Friday, August 02
The FCC roster is finally getting back to full strength, as President Obama has nominated Michael O’Reilly for the vacant Republican chair. As Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports:
O’Rielly’s nomination could help pave the way for the confirmation of Tom Wheeler, Obama’s choice for FCC chairman. Republicans were unlikely to back Wheeler unless he was paired with a Republican commissioner.
O’Reilly was previously an aide for Sens. Jon Kyl and John Sununu.
Friday, June 21
Via John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, the House Communications Subcommittee has penciled in June 27 for a hearing on wireless spectrum:
The Subcommittee hearing is titled “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era,” and will include witnesses from the government and private sectors talking about the needs of wireless companies and government agencies “in a time of limited spectrum and financial resources.”
Things could be looking up for congested wireless networks, with President Obama newly focused on America’s spectrum crunch. Hopefully, the FCC’s incentive auctions will stay on track for next year, as suggested by Commissioner Rosenworcel.
Friday, June 14
As my colleague Rick Boucher has already stated, the spectrum-related initiatives President Obama announced this morning are a “great step” toward getting mobile broadband providers the airwaves they need in order to meet the demands of their customers. That’s the first nugget of good news.
The second nugget of good news, which was also included in this morning’s announcement, is the White House’s report on the state of broadband, which highlights just how far our country has come in providing high-speed Internet access to citizens. Some bullet points from the report:
• In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
• Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
• Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America’s average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
• Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies; investment in European wireless networks remained flat during this time period, while wireless investment in Asia (including China) rose only 4%.
• There are over 500 million Internet-connect devices now in American homes and businesses.
Those are some impressive numbers, especially on the investment front, and they underscore just how vibrant and competitive the U.S. wireless market really is.
The numbers also tell us that in order to keep the party lights on, the Federal Communications Commission must pursue policies that encourage investment and innovation. Currently the FCC has two issues burning up its docket. The first is the upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which need to be transparent and open in order to get the most out of those airwaves. Competition is important – which is already occurring in the telecom market – and so is raising as much money as possible for the U.S. Treasury. Also, we need to ensure companies that can quickly put new spectrum to work powering mobile broadband are in the mix.
The other issue facing the FCC is the upgrade of America’s wired networks so they are better suited for the Internet age. While the baseline speed of >10 megabits per second cited in the White House’s report is good, we can do better. The upgrade to all-Internet based networks will mean substantially faster broadband in more places, but getting there will require substantial investment. It will also mean a close examination — and potential overhaul — of regulations currently governing our nation’s networks.
Neither of these issues is insurmountable, but it will take continued partnership between the government and private industry to keep America at the forefront of both wired and mobile broadband. The numbers in the White House report are encouraging. The President’s push to free up more government spectrum is inspiring. Smart policies when it comes to spectrum auctions and network upgrades will help us hit the trifecta.
Wednesday, April 24
Via Brendan Sasso of The Hill, suggestions for a new FCC Chairman are making their way to the White House:
A coalition of conservative groups is urging President Obama to pick a new Federal Communications Commission chairman who will take a light touch with new regulations.
“We need regulators who can resist the frequent urge to ‘do something’ about problems that are rapidly mooted by technological change anyway. Often, government’s best response is to do nothing,” the conservative groups wrote on Tuesday in the letter to Obama and Senate leaders.
President Obama not only has to name a replacement for Chairman Julius Genachowski, but one for Republican Commission Robert McDowell as well.
Monday, April 01
Over at The Hill, Brendan Sasso warns President Obama is headed into a “political minefield” as he mulls a successor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski:
It’s an important choice for Obama, as the next chairman will face difficult decisions over how to provide enough airwaves for mobile devices, preserve the openness of the Internet and promote competition.
Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and fundraiser for Obama, was considered the clear favorite for the job just last week. But then a coalition of public interest groups sent a letter to the president bashing him, and 37 senators signed a letter supporting an alternative pick: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
“Wheeler is still the front runner, but it isn’t as secure as it was a week or two ago,” another industry watcher said.
Wednesday, March 13
Over at The Hill, Jennifer Martinez reports President Obama is set to meet with various CEOs today. The topic of conversation:
The president will discuss efforts to address the cyber threat facing the country and get the executives’ feedback on how the government and private sector can forge a relationship to improve cybersecurity in the United States, according to The White House. The meeting will be held in the Situation Room.
Martinez goes on to report that John Brennan, the new CIA Director, has called cybersecurity a “significant national security challenge.”
Wednesday, January 23
Over at Bloomberg BNA, Paul Barbagallo highlights renewed focus from President Obama and Congress to make more spectrum available for the ever-growing wireless industry:
For much of the last four years, federal policymakers have worked aggressively to find swaths of frequencies that could be made available to wireless carriers to help meet the ever-increasing consumer demand for smartphones and tablet computers, which require more radio spectrum to carry their data transmissions—significantly more than what is needed to carry cellular telephone calls.
That work will continue this year, starting at the FCC.
Later in the piece, our own Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman is quoted:
“I think we’re going to see bipartisan interest in both inventorying and transferring spectrum from federal government use to private-sector use,” Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of nonprofits and corporations, including telecom carriers and equipment makers, told BNA.
Mehlman, former assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under George W. Bush, noted that for the last four years, Congress has placed much of its attention on passing legislation to authorize the FCC to hold incentive auctions.
“A lot of focus is now going to turn to federal spectrum holdings that could be repurposed,” he said.
This is still an important topic. Barbagallo’s full article is definitely worth checking out.
Wednesday, July 11
At The Verge, Adi Robertson reports on President Obama’s latest executive order:
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that changes the way the US deals with telecommunications in the event of an emergency. “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions” codifies the steps that agencies need to take in order to make sure that communications networks will keep running in the event of a natural disaster or national security emergency.
As Robertson notes, the bulk of the order merely unifies and modernizes current policies.
Thursday, June 14
President Obama’s broadband deployment Executive Order (see below), received praise from CTIA, the nation’s largest wireless industry group, but as John Eggerton of Multichannel News reports, that praise came with a specific message:
“CTIA and the wireless industry are pleased to see the president recognizes that more Americans continue to rely on their mobile devices for anytime and anywhere access, including the Internet,” said CTIA president Steve Largent in a statement. “At the same time, we hope the president and his administration remain focused on getting more spectrum for the U.S. wireless industry so our members may handle the significant data usage of Americans now and in the future.”
With mobile broadband being rapidly adopted by America’s underserved communities, CTIA is right to point out that efforts to close the digital divide should focus both on wired networks and providing the airwaves mobile broadband needs to operate and grow.
In what could prove to be a major step in closing America’s digital divide, President Obama is signing an Executive Order today aimed at making broadband deployment faster and easier. From the White House website:
The Executive Order (EO) will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment. The EO also requires that available Federal assets and the requirements for leasing be provided on departmental websites, and it will require public tracking of regional broadband deployment projects via the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard. In addition, the Executive Order will direct departments to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction—an approach that can reduce network deployment costs along Federal roadways by up to 90 percent.
The EO also launches an effort being called “US Ignite,” which is aimed at connecting communities and campuses with 1 gigabit/second broadband in order to promote the public good. Again, from the Order:
This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities areas such as education, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing. US Ignite will challenge students, startups, and industry leaders to create a new generation of applications and services that meet the needs of local communities while creating a broad range of job and investment opportunities. This initiative will open up countless new opportunities for households and small businesses, helping them experience the economic and community benefits of next-gen applications while demonstrating a path for other communities to join.
More on US Ignite can be found on the initiative’s website.
Thursday, June 07
Via The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been nominated by President Obama for another term on the Commission:
Clyburn is the daughter of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking Democrat in the House. The Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination for her first term in July 2009.
Mignon Clyburn is known as a liberal on the five-member commission and is a vocal advocate for media diversity.
Friday, May 25
Earlier today, a privately funded spacecraft docked with the International Space Station for the first time. As Bloomberg’s Brendan McGarry reports:
Closely held SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, connected its unmanned Dragon capsule to the station at 12:02 p.m. New York time, according to Kyle Herring, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is the first company to accomplish the feat.
“This is truly a momentous accomplishment for SpaceX and for the industry,” Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Washington-based Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said in a statement. The country is on its way to having a cost-effective space transportation system, he said, and SpaceX should be thanked for “restoring U.S. access to the space station.”
That’s pretty awesome, and shines a light on just how powerful private investment can be when it comes to innovation and moving America forward — a message not lost on the White House. As the Associated Press reports (via FoxNews):
The White House quickly offered congratulations.
“Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting,” said John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s chief science adviser. “This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best — tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit.”
As competition between private companies helps further America’s reach into the stars, it’s worth remembering competition and private investment are having an equally important effect here on the ground. With broadband — especially mobile broadband — driving our new digital economy, ensuring private companies continue to compete and invest to build out increasingly powerful networks will be critical.
Remember, President Obama has set the goal of connecting everyone to mobile broadband. Just as the private sector will make it possible for NASA to set their sites on Mars, private companies can achieve the President’s goal and allow the government to focus its attentions and resources on other matters critical for America’s future.
Thursday, May 17
In a must-read article for Bloomberg, Larry Downes argues the FCC — despite its good intentions — is getting in the way of freeing much-needed spectrum for wireless:
Speaking the week of May 7 at the annual meeting of the mobile trade group CTIA-The Wireless Association, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had to acknowledge the sad truth that “the overall amount of spectrum available has not changed, except for steps we’re taking to add new spectrum on the market.”
Those “steps,” however, only promise spectrum sometime in the vague future. For now, the two agencies have put almost no new spectrum into actual use. Instead, the agencies have piled up a depressing list of delays, scandals, and wasted opportunities.
Later in the piece, Downes calls for a major overhaul of how spectrum is managed by the government:
Saving the mobile ecosystem—and making way for the next generation of mobile innovation—demands a bold new strategy. For starters, it is time to stage an intervention for federal agencies hoarding spectrum. Private licensees who no longer need the spectrum they have must be able to sell their rights quickly in a working market and be prodded, when necessary, to do so. Buyers need the freedom to repurpose spectrum to new uses.
Also, we need to increase incentives for network operators to continue investing in better and more efficient infrastructure, not throw cold water on them in the name of a vague and largely undefined public interest. The number of competitors isn’t what matters. It’s the ability of consumers to get what they want at prices that, at least up until now, continue to decline.
Downes’ full article is blunt, alarming, and worth reading.
Tuesday, May 01
Less regulation, more government spectrum available for consumer use, and fewer limitations on which companies can acquire and deploy more robust networks across additional bandwidth will lead to the President’s goal of 98 percent LTE deployment in the United States.
The first commercial traffic crossed the Internet in 1992. Since then, technology has dramatically changed the way consumers communicate. Last year, U.S. consumers sent 2.3 trillion text messages and logged 2.29 trillion minutes on their wireless devices. As consumer demand for wireless continues to grow, the supply of government allocated airwaves is not keeping up.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) projects that by 2014, mobile data traffic will be 35 times 2009 levels, equaling demand for 1,097 MHz of wireless broadband spectrum. The Commission therefore estimates that the deficit in wireless broadband spectrum will be 275 MHz by 2014.
“With consumer demand on track to soon outpace supply, the government must move quickly to allocate more airwaves for consumer use in order to keep mobile broadband available, accessible and affordable. And beyond making additional spectrum available, it’s crucial that policy makers encourage the private investment necessary to deploy these airwaves for the benefit of all Americans.”
— IIA Co-Chair Jamal Simmons
From 1996 to 2011, the broadband industry invested nearly $1.2 trillion, and more private sector dollars are critical to reaching the President’s goal of universal broadband. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act earmarked $7.2 billion for the expansion of broadband, and the FCC’s recently launched Connect America Fund allocates $300 million more – but a FCC task force said reaching 100 million homes with a 100Mbps nationwide broadband network could cost as much as $350 billion. Taxpayer funds alone will not suffice.
“Pro-Internet policy successes came when government removed barriers, rather than adding new ones. Unfortunately those days may be ending. While there is rare bipartisan agreement that the biggest challenge to broadband-enabled growth is lack of private investment and available spectrum, there is growing disagreement on how to fix it.”
— IIA Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman
Today, at an Internet Academy on Capitol Hill hosted by the IIA, industry experts will discuss, “20 Years Later: Are We Winning or Losing the Spectrum War?” Speakers Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics, and Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, will join IIA Co-Chairmen Bruce Mehlman and Jamal Simmons to examine spectrum policy, bandwidth consumption versus availability, and the need for investment as wireless technologies continue to advance. Topics will include:
• A look at how technology has changed since the first commercial traffic crossed the Internet in 1992.
• The benefits of mobile technology, and how it has changed the day-to-day activities and operations of a typical Hill office.
• The increase in bandwidth usage over the past two decades and the need for continued network investment.
Friday, February 17
Yesterday, it was announced Congress had reached an agreement to extend the payroll tax cut. Included was legislation on spectrum auctions. Our thoughts (and applause for Congress) about the spectrum legislation are here. Meanwhile, over at The Hill, Brendan Sasso reports on President Obama’s comments following the announcement:
“[The legislation] includes a critical element in the plan I outlined in the State of the Union to out-innovate the rest of the world by unleashing mobile broadband, investing in innovation, and building a nationwide public safety network,” Obama said. “It will mean a stronger economy and hundreds of thousands of new jobs.”
Wednesday, January 25
In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the need to build out high-speed broadband to everyone in America:
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
The President also called for “comprehensive cybersecurity legislation from Congress. As Gautham Nagesh of The Hill reports, that call received a swift response from key members of the Senate:
Senate Homeland Security chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) echoed President Obama’s call in the State of the Union for Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation on Tuesday evening.
“The President’s call for Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation underscores the pressing nature of securing the government’s cyber systems and networks—and a limited number of private sector networks that touch the lives of all Americans,” Lieberman said.
Senate leaders have been working on legislation that would place the Department of Homeland Security in charge of regulating private networks, while in the House a more limited legislation has also been debated.
Tuesday, January 10
In an op-ed for The Hill, Jonathan Spalter, Chairman of the organization Mobile Future, urges President Obama to take a bigger leadership role when it comes to technology:
Chairman Genachowski rightly warned of a “looming spectrum crisis.” U.S. demand for mobile Internet could outstrip capacity in as little as two years. If President Obama delivers on his call to shift 500 Mhz of spectrum to expand the mobile web, it could help win the hearts of the 91% of Americans who are so connected to our mobile devices that we sleep with them within arm’s reach. The move also would enable the private sector to create 500,000 jobs throughout our economy and add $400 billion to our GDP.
What does it take? Technology-savvy leadership. A consistent policy vision that continually pulls in a constructive direction. And, a clear-eyed choice of humility over hubris when it comes to the role of government in our innovation policy.
Spalter’s full op-ed is worth checking out.
Friday, November 18
Via Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post, Ajit Varadaraj Paj and Jessica Rosenworcel — President Obama’s two nominees for the FCC — will have their day before the Senate for confirmation on November 30.
Earlier this month, Sen. Chuck Grassley stated he would hold up the process over a dispute between the Senate and the FCC over mobile broadband provider LightSquared, but Commerce Committee chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller is still pushing for a quick confirmation.
Friday, October 28
Today, IIA Broadband Ambassador Navarrow Wright has a great piece on The Huffington Post highlighting the need to ensure there is an “even playing field” when it comes to communities connecting to the digital economy. Here’s a taste:
The importance of wireless technologies became a national priority earlier this year when President Obama talked about the need to deploy next-generation 4G wireless networks to 98% of the nation during his 2011 State of the Union Address. Likewise, the Federal Communication Commission has become acutely attuned to the need for additional greater spectrum in order to sustain wireless growth and demand..
Because of the increasing importance of wireless accessibility and the need to improve the more efficient allocation and use of spectrum, the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile represents a very important measure for the future of wireless-enabled entrepreneurship, especially for people of color. Regardless of the companies involved in this deal, the end result holds a greater promise for consumers and businesses alike, particularly for those individuals who stand to lose access to a 4G LTE network if this doesn’t come to fruition.
The full article is definitely worth checking out.
Friday, September 16
Yesterday, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and fourteen other House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama “urging him to swiftly resolve concerns with the proposed transaction between AT&T and T-Mobile USA.” From the official press release:
“The road to economic recovery is long, but there is an opportunity before us to immediately create jobs and spur infrastructure investments and technological innovations that will create jobs for years to come,” said Rep. Shuler. “By settling the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA we can put thousands of Americans back to work and promote economic development across the country. I urge the President to strongly consider the vast benefits this merger will have on job creation and the economy and quickly resolve any concerns the Administration may have with the proposal.”
The full list of co-signers:
Rep. John Barrow
Rep. Mike Ross
Rep. Dan Boren
Rep. Dennis Cardoza
Rep. Joe Baca
Rep. Leonard Boswell
Rep. Ben Chandler
Rep. Jim Costa
Rep. Henry Cuellar
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Mike Michaud
Rep. Collin Peterson
Rep. Loretta Sanchez
Rep. David Scott