Why the spectrum crunch matters to you

Steve Pociask President, American Consumer Institute
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Let’s face it. When it comes to mobile technologies, America’s innovators are leading the way in app development and wireless accessibility. It’s hard to remember a time when cell phones were the size of a briefcase and had no capabilities outside of making a phone call. But the realities we have grown so accustomed to are at risk, as are the very technologies that allow us to surf the Web, stream video and make dinner reservations from a device that fits in our pocket.

In his recent Consumer Electronic Show keynote address, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned mobile broadband users, “We’re threatened by a looming spectrum crunch. This is the dark cloud around the silver lining.”

The “spectrum crunch” is a term that’s often thrown around by members of the technology community. But what does it really mean? Genachowski summed it up quite simply when he said, “Virtually every company is fueled by broadband Internet … Though we can’t see it, spectrum is becoming increasingly essential to the daily lives of almost every American. This invisible infrastructure is the backbone of a growing percentage of our economy and our lives.”

Few would disagree with Genachowski’s assessment. It’s becoming clear that if we don’t take steps now to address this crisis, we risk stifling innovation in the wireless broadband marketplace — which could negatively impact America’s productive tech sector.

Luckily, there are solutions to ensure short- and long-term growth. Even with partisan bickering at an all-time high on Capitol Hill, there appears to be growing bipartisan agreement on how we can enact meaningful spectrum reforms that will better reflect the marketplace — particularly as it relates to voluntary incentive auctions.

Recent discussions among legislators have displayed a substantial narrowing of differences over previously contentious issues and have reaffirmed the value of spectrum reform in lowering the deficit and paving the way for investment and innovation. But if we don’t act on these shared priorities soon, valuable benefits — such as job creation and better service for customers — will be delayed even further.

The American economy faces plenty of challenges, but spectrum doesn’t have to be one of them. As we prepare for Congress to reconvene, I am hopeful that we will soon be able to put an end to spectrum crisis discussions and look toward an even brighter future in the mobile broadband marketplace.

Steve Pociask is president of the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research institute.