A bi-partisan group of 42 congressmen, led by Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), released a letter to conferees on the Payroll Tax Cut Conference Committee (who currently are working on payroll-tax initiatives), urging them to protect public access to unlicensed spectrum.
Eshoo is Ranking Member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and Issa serves as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
House and Senate negotiations on extending a payroll-tax cut could include spectrum legislation in the compromise package that could help pay for the cost of tax legislation; supporters of unlicensed spectrum reportedly don’t want conferees to include the House’s language if they include spectrum legislation in the final payroll-tax package.
The background: Estimates say unlicensed spectrum generates between $16 billion and $37 billion each year for the U.S. economy. As a result, these signatories to the letter believe “it’s absolutely essential that the United States not close the door on this exciting area of innovation which can help enhance rural broadband coverage, reduce energy costs and pave the way for new technologies that have yet to be invented.”
In the letter, the representatives declare smart spectrum policy "must recognize that both licensed and unlicensed spectrum in the television band maximizes the economic benefits of wireless broadband. With a balanced approach to spectrum policy, we can unlock billions of dollars in private investment, new innovations, job creation, and economic growth."
Here is the letter in its entirety:
Dear Chairman Camp and Chairman Baucus:
We are writing regarding the possible inclusion of spectrum policy in the extension of the payroll tax legislation. Smart spectrum policy will drive the next generation of wireless broadband, creating new economic opportunities for the telecommunications and technology ecosystem. These provisions will have a dramatic impact on our nation’s wireless future and benefit many stakeholders, including public safety, small businesses, educators, and consumers. While there are many important spectrum policy goals, today we’re writing to urge you to preserve the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) flexibility to use some of the "beachfront" spectrum recovered from voluntary incentive auctions for unlicensed use.
Some of the most significant innovations in wireless communications, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, were born in spectrum bands with no exclusive license. Collectively, unlicensed devices help generate an estimated $16-37 billion per year for the U.S. economy. Even our nation’s largest wireless service providers use unlicensed spectrum to reduce congestion on their network, with experts suggesting that more than one-third of their data traffic today is off-loaded onto Wi-Fi networks.
Exploring the use of beachfront spectrum, specifically in the television band, is vital given its ability to penetrate buildings, enhance rural coverage, and carry more data traffic than traditional Wi-Fi. Yet today, within the frequencies best suited for mobile broadband services, there is more than five times as much spectrum available for licensed use as there is for unlicensed use. From Plumas, California to Logan, Ohio, entrepreneurs and small businesses are working with leaders in key sectors of the U.S. economy, such as health care, education and energy to develop wireless hotspots, medical patient monitoring, smart grid and other innovative applications that use unlicensed spectrum found in the television band.
Spectrum policy must recognize that both licensed and unlicensed spectrum in the television band maximizes the economic benefits of wireless broadband. With a balanced approach to spectrum policy, we can unlock billions of dollars in private investment, new innovations, job creation, and economic growth. Thank you for considering these views.
Immediately commenting on the letter, the Wireless Innovation Alliance said in part: "We believe that spectrum reform will ensure that commercial users, public safety and federal users all have access to wireless capacity to meet our ever-growing wireless needs. However, in order to do that successfully, as it has in the past, the FCC must retain its ability to make appropriate allocation decisions and conduct auctions to maximize technological innovation and rural broadband deployment.”