The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a full committee hearing entitled “Wireless Broadband and the Future of Spectrum Policy" on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at 10:30 a.m. (previously scheduled at 10:00 a.m.).
Numerous wireless broadband technologies deliver high-speed wireless Internet access over radio waves to consumers’ devices, including 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), fixed wireless services, Wi-Fi, and satellite services. While radio spectrum is abundant, usable spectrum is limited by the constraints of modern technology, physics, and how spectrum is allocated for various uses. Advancements in technology have made useable frequencies once thought to be unusable spectrum and allowed spectrum users to co-exist closer together while avoiding interference. Current U.S. spectrum policy involves managing channels of radio frequencies to avoid interference and making decisions about how radio frequencies will be allocated and who will have access to them.
The hearing on Wednesday will explore U.S. spectrum policy and how it should be improved to accommodate consumers' growing demands for wireless broadband. Witnesses have been asked to address how federal spectrum policy may need to change to meet national challenges and what role Congress should play in establishing a successful spectrum strategy over the next few decades.
• The Honorable Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO, CTIA-The Wireless Association
• Dr. Pierre de Vries, Co-Director of the Spectrum Policy Initiative, Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado School of Law
• Dr. Thomas Lenard, President and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute
• Mr. Blair Levin, Former Executive Director, National Broadband Plan
• The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
**10:30 a.m. (previously scheduled at 10:00 a.m.)**
Full Committee hearing
Chairman John Thune
"We convene today to discuss what Congress and the federal government should be doing to ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of the mobile revolution. Today’s hearing will be the first in a series to examine the policies related to spectrum and wireless broadband. The Senate has a real opportunity over the next several months to pass meaningful wireless broadband and spectrum reform legislation, and it is my hope that the Committee will use these hearings to inform our work in developing such a bill.
"By now, everyone is familiar with the immense power of wireless technologies. From keeping us connected while on the go, to powering the growing Internet of Things, wireless devices and services have become commonplace in the everyday lives of most Americans. Here in the United States, we also have the benefit of being the global leader in wireless innovation and investment, particularly in 4G mobile broadband.
"But, this Committee and Congress as a whole cannot take these developments for granted. Europe and Asia look at our 4G success with envy and are working hard to leapfrog the U.S. and take the lead in the next generation of wireless, known as “5G.” And while the last two decades of wireless policy have largely been a success, we cannot be complacent and think that yesterday’s laws are a perfect fit for the future.
"After the record-setting AWS-3 auction earlier this year, and on the eve of a spectrum auction that may be even more important, now is the perfect time for this Committee to start thinking about “what’s next?” for American spectrum policy.
"Speaking of the upcoming incentive auction, we just saw the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) this month delay one of its key rulemakings for that auction. It’s my hope this doesn’t end up being a serious setback, because I would very much like to see the incentive auction happen next year as planned. While I am sure many of my colleagues would agree, today’s hearing is not focused on the near-term actions of the Commission.
"Instead, we need to be looking further into the future. Our nation’s airwaves are only going to get more crowded as the Internet of Things brings tens of billions of wireless devices online. We need more wireless capacity, more wireless efficiency, and more wireless innovation. To do this, the government will need to be more conscientious about how it manages and uses its own spectrum, while also proactively breaking down barriers to private sector deployment.
"As I see it, there are three areas where the Committee should focus its legislative attention. First, we need to improve how the federal government, which is the largest spectrum holder in the country, manages and utilizes its own airwaves. Federal agencies already share some of their spectrum with the private sector, but much more needs to be done to encourage them to relinquish or share additional bands.
"This does not need to be an antagonistic effort. With a challenging fiscal environment, many agencies may see opportunity in opening up their bands to the public in exchange for new wireless systems that are more effective and less costly to maintain. Like the private sector, federal agencies’ wireless needs grow each year. But by aligning incentives and utilizing newer technologies, we may be able to find win-win solutions that benefit everyone.
"The second area we need to focus on is identifying specific bands that can be opened up for private use, both licensed and unlicensed. While creating the right spectrum management incentives for the federal government will help, history shows that Congress is often the most effective facilitator in bringing more wireless bands to the marketplace.
"Additionally, finding spectrum to be auctioned can help bring in revenue for the U.S. Treasury that can then be used to pay down our nation’s fiscal deficit or fund other critical priorities. Perhaps more important than those revenues is the impact that freeing up more spectrum will have on the economy—more private sector spectrum has historically led to more jobs and more economic growth. Just yesterday, former Democratic FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and former Republican FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell wrote a compelling op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that suggests “750,000 new jobs could be created by deploying more mobile broadband.”
"Lastly, we need to examine ways to reduce the cost of deploying wireless broadband services. Freeing up more spectrum is one way to do that, but there may well be other legal and regulatory barriers that make it more expensive to bring new services to the public. In particular, we ought to look at the rules governing the deployment of private sector wireless facilities on federal lands and buildings. Helping to get government at every level out of the way of wireless deployment will only accelerate how soon Americans will benefit from 5G, the Internet of Things, and the next exciting wireless development that will enhance people’s lives.
"I look forward to hearing from today’s panel of experts. Among them, they have a wealth of experience in spectrum policy, and I expect they will all have interesting and thought-provoking ideas for the Committee to consider."
I want to welcome all of our witnesses for joining us and thank Chairman Thune for holding this hearing on the future of spectrum policy.
Today, there are more wireless devices in this country than there are people, and that number stands to grow exponentially as wireless technologies become an even greater part of our lives.
As this demand for wireless services increases, so too will our need to dedicate more spectrum to help power this technology.
And while businesses are clamoring for more and more spectrum, our government’s reliance on it has also become greater.
So, as we begin looking at the future of U.S. spectrum policy, I believe we must maintain a fair balance between licensed spectrum - the frequencies used to transmit radio, TV and broadband signals - and unlicensed spectrum, which supports such technologies as Wi-Fi.
And, since spectrum is a finite public resource, we must also ask commercial and government spectrum holders to become more efficient users.
We should relocate spectrum when we can, and fully embrace spectrum sharing when we cannot.
We have the ability to meet future spectrum demands for both private sector and government users; however, it’s critical that the Department of Defense, NASA, the FAA and other agencies have access to the necessary spectrum and updated technologies to meet their current and future mission critical needs.
Finally, as we look to the future, it is important to recognize that spectrum legislation has traditionally been bipartisan.
And there is no better evidence of that than the 2012 Act, which generated in this committee as a joint idea of former Senators Rockefeller and Hutchison.
This committee should exert that same degree of leadership and consensus to address the future of U.S. spectrum policy.
Before I close, I want to say how pleased I am to see FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel appearing before us today.
Her appearance is a recognition of her leadership on spectrum policy and I know we will all benefit from her thoughts.
Mr. Chairman, I know that this committee has before it the commissioner’s re-nomination, which I think we should proceed to consider without delay.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses here today.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Meredith Atwell BakerPresident and CEOCTIA-The Wireless Association
Dr. Pierre de VriesCo-Director of the Spectrum Policy InitiativeSilicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado School of Law
Dr. Thomas LenardPresident and Senior FellowTechnology Policy Institute
Mr. Blair LevinFormer Executive DirectorNational Broadband Plan
The Honorable Jessica RosenworcelCommissionerFederal Communications Commission