As budget deficits have increased, public investment in our nation’s infrastructure has declined. In just the last four years, the “United States has fallen sharply in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of national infrastructure systems,” from 6th in 2007-2008 to 16th in 2011-2012. Our roads, bridges, rail networks, and ports are all straining to handle demand, but due to budget concerns, lawmakers have little interest in increased funding.
Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel joined fellow Commissioner Pai in calling for a clear timeline for upcoming incentive auctions. Setting a timeline for critical decisions that will affect the future of the mobile Internet for the next decade is common sense. It would ensure sound management of the agency’s resources and set appropriate expectations for Congress and the communications industry. Now that the timeline has bipartisan support, the Chairman will likely be unable to continue avoiding accountability on this issue.
She also proposed something that no one in the Obama Administration has been willing to mention: An incentive auction approach to reclaiming federal spectrum for commercial use. Bravo!
Something remarkable happened during Commissioner Ajit Pai’s speech in Pittsburgh today. (PDF) In his first major speech, Commissioner Pai laid out a proposal to “unlock investment and innovation in the digital age” by promoting entrepreneurs, holding the FCC accountable, and providing clarity to the broadband industry.
To date, this FCC’s path toward our broadband future has been stalled by inaction and a failure to adjust to the rapid changes affecting the wireless industry and the Internet economy. The 2010 National Broadband Plan says “Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century.” Yet, over two years later, the FCC (1) has no strategy for transitioning our nation to all-IP communications networks, (2) has no timeline for making more spectrum available, and (3) is expending its resources on the regulation of narrowband special access services. Commissioner Pai recognizes that the current course will not promote continued investment in IP-networks or the wireless ecosystem, and that America’s global competitiveness hinges on how fast we can move to an all IP world.
The House Committee on Small Business is holding a hearing tomorrow on the Digital Divide: Expanding Broadband Access to Small Business. The Committee will hear from several agency heads, including FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, about their overall strategy to expand broadband capabilities to small businesses. I would ask Chairman Genachowski one question: How does your plan to encourage the deployment of narrowband special access services support new infrastructure investment and deployment of broadband networks?
Yesterday I blogged that FCC Chairman Genachowski’s proposal to impose new price regulations on narrowband “special access” services would be an issue to watch at today’s hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission” held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing didn’t disappoint.
Tomorrow the U.S. Congress, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.” This is the first hearing to feature a full complement of five commissioners since the appointments of Commissioners Rosenworcel and Pai. Considering that, and the election year, I expect many representatives will ask difficult questions. It’s always hard to predict what might interest a particular representative, but there are two key issues that are almost certain to receive some attention: special access and spectrum.
The Communications Liberty and Innovation Project (CLIP) recently filed comments at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opposing an interoperability mandate in the 700 MHz band. CLIP argued that the proposed interoperability mandate would be manifestly unjust. The Supreme Court’s holding in the healthcare opinion issued last week indicates that the mandate could be more than merely unjust: it might be unconstitutional.
California is recognized as a world leader in Internet technologies and services. It is the home of companies, like Apple, Google, and Cisco, whose innovations are driving economic recovery in California and Internet innovation around the world. The success of these and many other California technology companies has been driven by the decentralized and largely unregulated Internet, which provides them with the ability to market their products and services globally.
California’s success is also its biggest threat. The economic growth, individual empowerment, and entrepreneurialism driven by Internet innovation in California have made it the envy of the world. As a result, local and international governments are increasingly proposing new regulations that would favor their own companies – and cripple California’s economy. A current example is the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications, which will consider proposals to impose price regulations on the Internet through an agency of the United Nations.
In his reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding healthcare legislation, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, “On the liberty side, we won.” I couldn’t agree more.
By treating the individual mandate as a tax, the Court has shone a spotlight on the regulatory state. Taxation requires a transfer from the people to the government, which in turn requires that the government engage in federal spending to achieve its ends. Regulations enacted pursuant to the commerce clause typically require a transfer from one person to another, which allows the government to achieve its ends through private expenditures. These “hidden taxes” empower the regulatory state by cloaking its costs
in the shadows.