The Internet is moving increasingly to the wireless space. Today, 59% of consumers access the Internet using a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. To facilitate this increase in mobile computing, Americans will need more spectrum and fewer regulations on wireless service and devices.
Over the next four years, wireless broadband networks are projected to carry almost twenty times more data than they do today, thanks to exponentially growing usage of smartphones, laptops, and tablets. This will require more wireless spectrum to deliver data, but government agencies are loathe to free unused or inefficiently used spectrum in their grasp.
The White House has promised to make 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband over the next ten years, effectively doubling the amount on the commercial market. Yet, efforts by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release the spectrum are slow moving. Worse, the federal government holds only 28 percent of the spectrum that NTIA has identified and 60 percent is well above the 3 GHz level ideal for wireless broadband.
To free up spectrum, Congress should establish a Spectrum Reallocation Commission that determines what spectrum held by the federal government is not in use, could be used more efficiently, or could be traded in for less valued frequency bands. The commission should adjust or reallocate spectrum and place it on auction with executive action or approval from Congress.
NTIA and the FCC should also pursue incentive auctions that allow incumbent spectrum holders – both government and private companies – to receive a portion of the proceeds if they chose to auction spectrum licenses. These auctions should be voluntary and ensure the current license holder is fairly compensated for spectrum. On top of this, the FCC should auction spectrum already identified in the 700 MHz D Block, AWS, and 1755-1850 MHz bands to all interested parties. The revenue collected can be used to build a public safety networks or help to pay down deficits.
The FCC has proposed regulations combating wireless “bill shock,” the unexpected difference between your actual monthly cell phone bill and what you thought you had to pay. Some in Congress have even suggested shutting off consumers’ service if their bills go above advertised prices. Instead, the FCC should focus on reducing “tax shock,” rooted in a tax burden they administer that significantly inflates the cost of wireless service.