This week, new FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai are making their first trip west to Silicon Valley in their new roles to meet with technology innovators, a very good sign for the mobile innovation community. While the two newest commissioners are still settling in, some of their recent remarks have already provided valuable insight to their commitment to wireless and next generation investment and innovation.
Commissioner Rosenworcel highlighted the growing consumer demand for wireless services and the need for “technology, topology, and spectrum” at the FCC’s July open meeting last week. She called for clear timelines for the series of auctions the FCC will conduct, allowing for market certainty. These timelines will allow wireless companies to plan for more airwaves to keep pace with consumer demand, and should be accelerated where possible.
Meanwhile, she also called for an examination of incentives to give federal agencies for relinquishing underutilized spectrum so it can be reallocated to mobile. While wireless companies have invested more than $23 billion in infrastructure annually over the past 10 years, many government agencies are holding on to spectrum that is underutilized and could be put to much more valuable use in the commercial wireless ecosystem. Commissioner Rosenworcel’s attention to underutilized federal spectrum bodes well at a Commission that must grapple with finding large swaths of spectrum for mobile in a short timeframe.
Also last week, in his first public address as Commissioner, Ajit Pai threw a 98-mile an hour substantive fastball right in the strike zone. In urging the Commission to create a new Office of Entrepreneurial Innovation, designed to speed-up and streamline regulatory review processes, Pai has given voice to what consumers, innovators, and investors have long recognized: when it comes to sustaining America’s innovation culture and global competitiveness, there is a need for speed — not only the part of American inventors, engineers, and business people, but also by our government. In this, he joins a growing and bipartisan perspective within and outside of the FCC that when it comes to promoting innovation in America, agencies of government have a responsibility to avoid delay.
“Given these responsibilities, the FCC must act with the same alacrity as the industry we oversee,” he said. “That’s not to say we should rush to regulate, but delays at the Commission have substantial real-world consequences: new technologies remain on the shelves; capital lies fallow; and entrepreneurs stop hiring or, even worse, reduce their workforce as they wait for regulatory uncertainty to work itself out.”
It will take billions of dollars in new investment to maintain and enhance America’s highly competitive and robust wireless ecosystem going forward; that’s what will drive innovation in the sector, create jobs, help grow the US economy and further strengthen our global competitiveness as the transition to next-generation, high-speed mobile broadband networks and services continue to expand worldwide.
Both Pai’s and Rosenworcel’s inaugural remarks are well worth reading — and I believe augur well for their tenures at the Commission. They also raise hopes that as in the best traditions of the past generation, American communications policy will continue to be built on a bipartisan framework for what works best for American consumers and innovators.
As the FCC returns to operating at full strength, the goal must be to move full-speed ahead for reallocating spectrum while maintaining a climate that continues to encourage significant investment in next generation networks that carry the exponentially growing traffic generated by wireless consumers.
Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai will have a chance to see a lot of great innovations first-hand this week. And when they return to Washington, we hope they will work toward policies that make sure American consumers have the same opportunity.