NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The FCC Should Not Micromanage the Broadband Industry

June 22, 2015

Just as roads, highways and bridges are critical infrastructure for the transportation economy, spectrum is critical infrastructure for the communications economy. Roads and bridges are expensive to build, but at least you can always build more of them. With spectrum, however, the supply is limited by physics.  Innovation has allowed us to find more efficient ways to use available spectrum, but at the end of the day, spectrum is a finite resource and must be used efficiently.

Today the supply of spectrum is being artificially constrained. In some cases, this is just a matter of spectrum that has been licensed, or awarded, to companies that are making less efficient use of their spectrum.

  • Spectrum is being hoarded and wasted, particularly by government agencies. Spectrum availability is becoming a critical issue because of how much of our economic activity and productivity is moving to mobile devices. A recent Brattle Group study estimates that more than $400 billion in economic activity and over 1.3 million jobs are generated directly by use of this licensed spectrum. 
  • There is also unlicensed spectrum — the spectrum you use in your home or office for a Wi-Fi network, for instance. Unlicensed spectrum is also growing in importance, and because equally important uses lend themselves to both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, we need more of both.

It is crucial, therefore, that policy makers make it a priority to free up as much spectrum as possible, as soon as possible, to ensure we do not start experiencing the equivalent of traffic jams in the wireless space.

Releasing spectrum needs to be a priority, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is behind on its promised pace of spectrum reallocation. If the FCC would reallocate more of its time and resources to releasing spectrum and less of it to micromanaging the broadband industry, that would be a win-win for the U.S. economy.

Source: Tom Giovanetti, "More Spectrum Needed to Avoid Wireless Traffic Jams," Institute for Policy Innovation, June 19, 2015. 

 

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