With broadband-enabled wireless devices fast becoming the preferred on-ramp to the Internet and nearly 330 million subscriptions already running over mobile networks, it’s critical for technologists and policymakers alike to keep a laser focus on setting the right climate to spur investment and innovation that keeps the U.S. at the forefront of global technology leadership.
A recent bill introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, exemplifies this kind of policy leadership, and will be a model for how a common sense, bipartisan approach to public policy can bring the benefits of broadband innovation to Californians for years to come.
As consumers increasingly show a preference for mobile voice and broadband services, American innovators — many based in California — are bringing an astounding array of new products and services to market that both anticipate and respond to evolving consumer demand. FCC data indicates that more than 30 percent of adults are now living in wireless-only households and according to Nielsen, nearly 55 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers own smartphones.
Whether you live in a rural area or an urban center, broadband connectivity is providing opportunities not even dreamed of just a few years ago. From improved health monitoring, to eLearning opportunities, better access to municipal services and public safety, and increased economic empowerment, and civic engagement, the mobile communications revolution is a driving force in our nation’s economic and social fabric.
Wireless broadband access is also helping close the digital divide across the nation. For instance, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that Hispanics and African Americans are adopting smartphones at a faster pace than the national average and any other demographic group. And Internet usage among Americans over 65 has more than tripled in the past 10 years. A recent FCC order on Lifeline services highlighted the increasing importance of wireless connections to those living in or near poverty.
As the mobile revolution continues to impact Americans everywhere, U.S. wireless companies are responding to the exploding increase in demand. This includes investing hundreds of billions of dollars — more than any other American business — to transition expensive and outdated infrastructure, to a new, Internet-based platform. These “smart” networks will give consumers more choices in how they connect, and have an even greater impact for U.S. businesses, many of whom depend on the Internet to communicate.
The success of these next-generation “smart” technologies depends on an equally wise regulatory structure that encourages such a transition. By supporting a modernized communications infrastructure that will meet consumer needs and support our digital economy, government policies can help fuel growth and enhance our mobile competitiveness worldwide.
That is why we look to California’s IP bill as an important blueprint for securing broadband’s great promise for the citizens and economy of our nation’s largest state. The paradigm set out in the law eliminates the regulatory uncertainty that can stifle private investment in innovative new Internet technologies throughout California. And, it reinforces the goal of widespread, affordable broadband that can be used in countless ways across the Golden State’s economy and communities.
Our nation is a global leader in wireless, Internet and IP-enabled services and sound policies such as California’s new law will help ensure the mobile future is bright for consumers everywhere.