In an address to the Free State Foundation last Thursday, March 21, Senator Marco Rubio discussed the digital transition for all telecommunications services and the two issues he views as most crucial to the transition's success: the maintenance of internet freedom, and spectrum. Senator Rubio praised technology and the digital age as key to a vibrant middle and working class, yet warned that legacy regulations and regulatory uncertainty endanger the capacity of the internet and technology.
Senator Rubio echoed the frequent call of those such as out-going FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell in calling for Congress and the United States to avoid standing idly by while international regulation of the internet becomes the norm. Senator Rubio argued that after the WCIT in Dubai this December, it is clear that the ITU and many member nations want to bring the internet firmly under their control. We only need to look to countries like China to see that allowing this leads not only to economic limitations, but oppression.
Senator Rubio further addressed the vast importance of spectrum, specifically of freeing it for commercial use. The “road of the digital age” has helped to grow technology to the point that the number of existing mobile devices will exceed the world’s population this year. While the government certainly needs spectrum to function, actions like a full audit of spectrum and accurate estimates of what would be needed to clear it are absolutely necessary to harness the potential spectrum has for economic growth. Senator Rubio noted that every 500mghz of spectrum released for commercial use creates around 350,000 jobs and $166 billion in GDP.
As Senator Rubio rightly noted, the future of the digital transition cannot be assured without action on spectrum and internet freedom. With flexible, light-touch regulations the federal government can encourage economic growth and freedom. The 2015 spectrum auctions and Congressional action opposing international internet regulation are excellent starting points, but more action is needed, and hopefully will be achieved with the help of those like Senator Rubio.
View his speech here