The Federal Communications Commission projects U.S. demand for mobile data to exceed capacity in 2013, and the situation is only expected to get worse. Networking giant Cisco projects mobile data traffic increasing to 18 times our current level within three years. National wireless carriers have spent tens of billions of dollars annually on facility improvements over the past five years, but they cannot overcome avoidable spectrum limitations. With government retaining control of nearly 60 percent of the available spectrum, it’s clear where opportunity exists to relieve this scarcity.
The pending incentive auctions will offer modest relief, but by the time that spectrum is allocated we will already need more. Congress can no longer focus on short-term fixes that are implemented on long-term schedules. The mobile economy depends on reliable wireless infrastructure, and the federal government must take steps to avoid the spectrum crunch by freeing up its own holdings for consumer use. Such a plan was briefly suggested during Senate debate of the National Defense Authorization Act and proposals like these warrant greater consideration.
As Congress weighs Internet policy, it should also be mindful of the changing nature of telecommunications services. That industry has evolved greatly over the past decade, and it’s important to weigh these changes when considering the telecom marketplace. Wired and wireless communications are now data traveling in the same manner through the same infrastructure. Regulators should be focused on the industry’s current structure and resist urges to base decisions on how it used to function.
Mobile technology and our industry evolve faster than Congress can act. Often we can innovate our way to a solution without needing attention from Washington. However, the pressing issues of workforce shortages and spectrum scarcity require Congress to take action. The solutions to these problems will result in better education, greater innovation and happier consumers. Hopefully Congress can meet these challenges quickly so Americans can soon receive the benefits.
Jonathan Zuck is president of the Association for Competitive Technology.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.