Thune Statement on State of Wireless Hearing

June 4, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, delivered the following prepared remarks at today’s Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee hearing on the State of Wireless Communications:

Thank you Chairman Pryor and Ranking Member Wicker for holding this hearing. 

Whether it is a farmer in his field checking real-time commodity prices, a college student video-chatting with her family back home, or an executive on the road dealing with a crisis back at headquarters, the ability to communicate with others and to get online without being tethered by a cord is no longer a luxury for many people, it is a necessity. Wireless communications have become an essential part of many Americans’ day-to-day lives, and I am glad the Subcommittee is exploring the issue today.

Without enough spectrum, the private sector will not be able to keep pace with consumer demand, which is growing exponentially. We must make it a priority to increase the availability of spectrum for commercial use, both licensed and unlicensed, as quickly as possible. 

One important block to open up is the 1755-1780 megahertz band of federal spectrum because, when paired with the AWS-3 block, there is a global ecosystem of devices and networks that our nation can immediately tap into. I have been working with Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling, the Department of Defense, and industry officials to find a commonsense solution that balances the needs of wireless consumers and of the federal government. It is my hope that we can find a way forward soon that allows this spectrum to be auctioned and cleared in the near future. A recently proposed “industry roadmap” may offer us a workable path to achieving that goal. 

Getting more spectrum into the marketplace, to the parties that value it most, is ultimately the best way for Federal policymakers to encourage new services and spur competition.  Unfortunately, some voices, including the Department of Justice, are calling for the Federal Communications Commission to micromanage the allocation of spectrum among wireless carriers. I stand with Chairman Upton, Chairman Walden, and my other colleagues in the House who challenged this perspective in a letter to the FCC in April. I believe the Commission should not pick winners or losers among individual companies, but instead let all interested participants freely compete against one another in the open market. 

The FCC began using spectrum auctions because we recognized that the free market is more effective at allocating spectrum than relying on the opinions and predictions of unelected bureaucrats. And with the U.S. being the global leader in 4G LTE connectivity, this approach has clearly been very successful.

The Commission should focus on maximizing participation in the upcoming incentive auctions, among both broadcasters and potential forward bidders. For example, one way to encourage more bidder activity in rural areas during the auction is to offer licenses in a variety of geographic sizes. The FCC should not be distracted by proposals that could lead to less spectrum being made available and less auction proceeds being realized for national priorities like deficit reduction and FirstNet.   

American consumers, including those farmers, students, and executives I mentioned earlier, are driving the mobile economy. They – not the government – should pick who wins in the marketplace.