Thursday, January 6, 2011

Genachowski to CES: Spectrum at Top of FCC 2011 Agenda

Obama Administration Rallies Troops for Spectrum Battles Ahead, Sees High Growth in Mobile Broadband Sector 01/06/2011 San Francisco - In a speech to be given tomorrow afternoon to a session at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will declare that this year "unleashing spectrum to support mobile innovation is at the top" of his Commission's agenda.

Mobile Ecosystem
The need for greater wireless spectrum has been identified as the holy grail of U.S. tech policy by groups, like CES sponsor the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), for years. Without more spectrum the growth and development of the flowering mobile ecosystem gets uprooted.
CEA President Gary Shapiro welcomes FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski to CES 2010.

This exploding sector covers a mix of app developers, carriers, digital content providers, infrastructure equipment manufacturers, investors, backhaul providers, site owners and managers, and smartphone makers.  In the speech Genachowski leaves no doubt as to where he comes down in the years old brawl between wireless providers and broadcasters. This is nothing new, given the clear statements in the National Broadband Plan (Chapter 5: Spectrum) issued in March of 2010. 

What is new is the urgency with which President Obama's FCC Chairman underlines the need to move ahead with incentive auctions aimed at delivering new wireless bandwidth to the mobile sector, shifting it from broadcasters, and driving a growth sector of the American economy in the process. 

"If we don't act," says Genachowski in his prepared remarks "we will put our country's economic competitiveness at risk. Make no mistake: We are in a global race for world leadership in mobile."   

The important details of how and how soon the Commission can be expected to reach the Plan's goal, also iterated in the speech by the Chairman, of "freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for mobile broadband" aside, one central and organizing principle in all of this is now clear: 

The belief of the Obama Administration that a high growth mobile broadband sector can help lift the American economy out of its continued post-recession slump is clear. That is the reason why the Commission's controversial Open Internet Order allows for a new loosely regulated wireless Internet to be driven by emerging carrier business models which in the opinion of many violate classically defined network neutrality definitions.

Look for CTIA, the largest wireless trade association in the nation, and policy savvy VCs to applaud the vision of an newly energized mobile sector as outlined in the Chairman's speech over the next few days.

Entrenched Interests: Broadcasters, Public Safety 
The political challenges to the mobile broadband future come primarily from broadcaster incumbent licensees of spectrum, and secondarily from (some but not all) the elements of the public safety community that do not want to share their access to D-block frequencies with commercial carriers.

The former will continue to be abetted by Republican supporters in Congress. The latter by the newly spun-off Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) as it works to keep its stranglehold on 80% of the public safety equipment market. It will do so, by continuing to build tech standard firewalls between commercial and public safety subscribers, keeping economies of scale in radio terminal gear as far removed from first responders (and tax dollars) as possible.    

This One's A Keeper 
FCC Commissioners give speeches all the time. Most of them are forgotten within hours by the few of us that read them. This speech, given the current context of the economic and policy hopes tied to an exploding mobile ecosystem is different.  

The speech had been embargoed until 9:00 PM (ET) today. We publish it now as the embargo is lifted  (although we might ask Commission staff to leak documents to us from time to time, we'd never break an embargo):
Speech of FCC Chair Genachowski to CES2011 01-07-2011
Web Analytics