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FCC Chairman to CTIA: Competition, Net Neutrality, Spectrum Top Priorities

September 9, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

Crowds streamed into the Sands Expo and Convention Center, Las Vegas, to the sounds of ’80s music icon Thomas Dolby and a string quartet covering the ’90s hit “Bittersweet Symphony,” but the buzz wasn’t about the morning keynote speech that would kick off CTIA Super Mobility Week. Instead, the impending Apple Live Event had taken over as a countdown clock ticked on the big screen.

The Apple circus — though alluded to in introductory remarks by CTIA Chairman Dan Mead, CEO of Verizon Wireless, and CTIA President Meredith Atwell Baker — would have to wait. First on the agenda: Several topics affecting the industry, with an emphasis on spectrum allocation.

Atwell Baker set up the three-day show, the first combining the CTIA conference with MobileCON. She cited dozens of figures about the incredible growth of the industry before focusing in on the need for a successful spectrum incentive auction with projected 886% mobile data usage growth by 2019.

“The U.S. had the third-lowest amount of spectrum dedicated to LTE,” she said. “How do we close the gap? The AWS-3 and 600MHz auction are a great start. We hear the wireless carriers may sit out of these auctions. Really? Given our track record, I’m incredulous wireless carriers wouldn’t bring billions of dollars to these auctions.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been pushing for the spectrum incentive auctions to reallocate spectrum from television broadcasters to wireless providers for ever-increasing mobile usage.

In introducing Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, Atwell Baker lauded his determination to bring the auctions to fruition.

Wheeler jumped right into his list of the Top 3 issues facing the business for the standing-room only crowd: the incentive auction, net neutrality and competition in the wireless industry.

Wheeler balanced his concerns with equal doses of praise, lauding CTIA for a “very thoughtful” paper arguing that mobile broadband should not be subject to the same rules as fixed broadband while alternately questioning why some consumers have been led to believe they have unlimited data usage or why others are targets for throttled usage.

“I’m hard-pressed to understand how either practice, much less the two together, could be a reasonable way to manage a network,” he said.

RELATED: CTIA’s “Net Neutrality & Technical Challenges of Mobile Broadband Networks”   |   Chairman Wheeler’s Prepared Remarks to CTIA

He also touched on the need to keep competition alive in the business and avoid the “walled gardens” of the past that created barriers to entry in the market.

“Where competition exists the commission must protect it. This industry has always told policymakers, ‘We’re different, we’re competitive, but in the last couple of years the FCC and Department of Justice had to be poised to protect that dynamic.”

Wheeler pointed out the wireless industry’s $260 billion 10-year infrastructure investment as “living proof that profit and progress can go hand in hand” before concluding on the topic of a shared front: spectrum allocation.

“Our greatest public asset is that which we cannot see: Spectrum. Your government has heard your cry for more spectrum. The Congress responded with a creative and courageous solution,” he said, “an incredibly complex, never-before attempted undertaking.”

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About the Author: Bethany Chambers

Bethany Chambers has been a digital editor for GPS World since 2012. She also serves as digital operations manager for GPS World parent company North Coast Media. Chambers is a multimedia journalist with expertise in the business and healthcare fields who has won awards from the National Press Club and the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership. She has a masters in interactive publishing from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors in marketing from Duquesne University.