LAS VEGAS - Spectrum for broadband use - and the lack of it -
was the overriding issue during a discussion between Consumer Electronics
Association (CEA) president Gary Shapiro and Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Julius Genachowski here on
In a break from tradition, Genachowski gave a 20-minute
speech detailing the key issues confronting the FCC and how they impact
American innovation, creativity and job growth.
He stressed the FCC's mission was to foster competition and
to prepare a "robust and vital" digital infrastructure for the 21st
Century (see p. 164 for a report on the chairman's remarks and NAB's reaction
In deference to his locale and audience, Genachowski
marveled at the innovation of just the past few years, ticking off the
introduction of smartphones, tablet devices and e-books, as well as the new and
growing apps economy.
Without more spectrum made available for wireless broadband,
he was concerned a lot of this growth will be stopped in its tracks. "More
spectrum is one of the very top priorities for the FCC in 2011," he said.
Once Congress gives its approval, the FCC would like to
immediately start "incentive auctions" of spectrum now in the hands of TV
broadcasters. This spectrum would then be used by new stakeholders to handle
the massive numbers of new devices entering the marketplace. Shapiro asked
Genachowski for details, and he said the commission would quickly create a
framework for liberalizing spectrum use and develop auction rules. In a best-case
situation, this could happen in about two years.
Genachowski also discussed the need for Universal Service
Fund reform. "We had the best phone service in the world and it fueled the
economy of the 20th Century. USF has created a set of dependencies
that's holding us back. It now needs to focus on broadband," rather than telephony.
Overall, he was fairly optimistic about America's position
in the explosive world of technology. "In the global race we have a head start,"
but putting more spectrum in the hands of innovative companies will ensure
growth and job creation for the years ahead.