FCC can prevent crisis by moving on Spectrum now

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist and executive director of Digital Liberty, Kelly William Cobb, wrote an op-ed yesterday in The Hill about the spectrum crunch. You can view the op-ed below:

Congress and the Federal Communications Commission are mired in a debate over how to free more spectrum for wireless broadband. Meanwhile, it’s been nearly two years since the White House and FCC promised to double the amount of spectrum we currently have for mobile broadband. It’s time for government to stop standing in the way of solutions to the looming spectrum crisis.

Americans are beginning to feel the spectrum crunch already in densely populated cities. While most may blame their cell phone company for slow or unresponsive service, the true fault is government. Wireless carriers spend over $20 billion dollars per year just to upgrade and maintain wireless networks. But maintaining roads only has a residual impact on traffic when what are needed are more lanes. With spectrum, the government has been slow to provide.

The last major spectrum auction was back in 2008. Yet, the FCC is sitting on spectrum it can auction today, including the D Block. Meanwhile, they helped kill the AT&T/T-Mobile merger aimed at using spectrum more efficiently to expand coverage and capacity. And they’ve slowed AT&T's purchase of Qualcomm spectrum. Here’s to hoping they don’t stall Verizon’s purchase of unused spectrum from cable companies.

When the company LightSquared announced plans to launch a brand new, $14 billion 4G wireless network combining satellites and cell towers, the FCC cheered. They praised the company for expanding broadband to underserved areas and bringing an innovative new form of wireless service. With the FCC’s initial blessing, the company acquired spectrum and began building out its new network years ago.

Yet, when the GPS industry and federal departments complained that LightSquared’s network could interfere with some GPS devices, the Commission quickly quieted, cowered, and slowed the company’s plans. The GPS industry used influence with bureaucrats in the federal government to curb progress, even leading to the Pentagon and other agencies leaking a preliminary report on spectrum interference in an effort to tarnish LightSquared’s public image. While progress has been made by setting up a working group between stakeholders, the Commission has largely bowed to this outside pressure. Instead, they should be working to facilitate a solution.

To read more about LightSquared and how Congress and the FCC are dragging their feet on spectrum, click here.