In case you weren’t able to attend last Friday’s Free State Foundation event, you missed AT&T’s Jim Cicconi talk about what the FCC needs to focus on now that we’ve moved on (right?!) from the “exhaustive and exhausting” net neutrality debate that took up the majority of the Commission’s time and energy for the past two years.
In the video clip below, Jim talks about the critical need to tackle universal service and intercarrier compensation reform if we’re serious about achieving 100% broadband in America. These systems, which were designed to be the underlying support for our country’s communication networks, are extremely complicated and, most importantly, undeniably broken. But, if we all believe that broadband will be the economic driver that takes us through the 21st century and beyond, then we have to reform the antiquated policies that stand in the way.
And, if we can agree that the universal service system should be devoted to broadband, then it’s imperative that we fund the most efficient technology to do this. So, if we are truly committed to supporting broadband, then we must be willing to say goodbye to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
President Obama today unveiled details of the Administration’s National Wireless Initiative, which is designed to bring wireless broadband to at least 98% of Americans. The following statement may be attributed to John Donovan, AT&T Chief Technology Officer:
“President Obama has outlined a comprehensive and aggressive plan that lays the groundwork for bringing wireless broadband to all Americans. AT&T applauds the Administration’s support for the role that industry and private investment play in making this important goal a reality. As we saw demonstrated today in Marquette, Michigan, wireless broadband makes possible extraordinary opportunities for both consumers and businesses, as well as for America’s students and teachers.
“This initiative will also enable public safety to build and fully operate a nationwide, interoperable communications network. The Administration’s commitment to provide public safety with the resources it needs while at the same time taking necessary steps to meet the needs of broadband providers is a tremendous step forward for this country.”
Posted by: Bob Quinn on February 8, 2011 at 10:36 am
Maybe that doesn’t have the toe tapping groove of the opening line from Sgt. Pepper but it seems a fitting way to mark the 15th Anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. And, maybe the occasion won’t get the same play that Facebook got for its 7th anniversary last week, but that law was the first major overhaul of America’s communications rules since the 1930s.
Think back to what “communications” meant when Congress wrote that law.
People were dialing up the Internet to access their Prodigy or CompuServe accounts. But perhaps the great technological innovation of 1996 was America Online’s introduction of the Buddy List to make IM’ing easier. Speaking of AOL, around that time, there was a memorable Time magazine cover story with the headline, “AOL Wins!” Try saying that in front of a mirror today and keeping a straight face. On the wireless front, about 38 million Americans were subscribers and their phone calls went out over the nation’s 24,000 cell towers. Today, there are about 295 million subscribers whose communication goes out over more than 250,000 cell towers.
In a statement yesterday, NAB raised points they thought it important to note. We think it’s also important to note that in the last four years alone, AT&T paid more than $10 billion simply for the rights to spectrum for our LTE wireless build. This amount had to be paid before we could even begin spending the billions also required for the actual build out of LTE.
This can be contrasted with the broadcast spectrum at issue here, for which the broadcasters paid nothing, and which, when used at all, serves only a sliver of the population with services that, at best, duplicate robust services widely available elsewhere. In short, if NAB is truly committed to identifying those “sitting” on unused or underused spectrum, they can start by looking in the mirror.
As for the NAB’s call for a government inventory of spectrum, this is another party to which they’re late. AT&T and the entire wireless industry were early supporters of spectrum inventory legislation. Government scrutiny of spectrum use is already underway, and government agencies have identified the broadcasters’ spectrum as underutilized. No wireless company fears a careful examination of spectrum usage. Indeed, the only entity reacting in an over-stressed way at the prospect of such scrutiny is NAB.
Like a climb up Mount Everest, finding new spectrum allocations for commercial wireless broadband use is extremely challenging. Those who have spectrum want to keep it, and the low hanging fruit has already been allocated…base camp has been reached.
The President, Congress and the FCC have all made it clear that additional spectrum is necessary to meet consumers’ increasing wireless broadband needs. Indeed, growth in data is exploding, with traffic nearly tripling in 2010. While carriers continue to invest heavily to add capacity, new spectrum is critical to reaping the full benefits of wireless broadband.
Earlier this week, the NTIA provided much needed support by announcing that it will conduct a detailed analysis of the 1755-1850 MHz band as its next step in evaluating government spectrum holdings for potential repurposing for commercial broadband use.