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FCC: More Broadband ‘Top Priority’


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 during International CES.

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.

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, he said.