By Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) - 01/06/10 12:34 AM EST
Consumers and businesses around the world rely on the Internet to communicate, compete and obtain information. The United States not only invented the Internet, we also invented the impressive array of devices, applications and services that run with it. From YouTube to the iPhone, e-mail to telemedicine, American innovation is a dominant force on the Internet. But urgent action is needed if America is to maintain its competitive edge in innovation and technology.
The Internet is undergoing another revolution. Increasingly, people and businesses rely on wireless broadband to get online. As mobile operators deploy advanced 3G and 4G networks, users can enjoy broadband services previously limited to wired networks. Only a few years ago, cell phones were used only for voice calls. Now, with smartphones and wireless laptops, users can access the entire Internet, send e-mails, watch and upload videos, play online games, access social media sites, collaborate with co-workers, interact with enterprise databases, and buy and sell online. The availability of bandwidth-intensive devices, applications and services on mobile platforms is exciting. But it also is creating enormous strain on our Internet infrastructure.
According to a recent report by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, the United States will need as much as 840 MHz by 2010, 1300 MHz by 2015 and 1720 MHz by the year 2020. I don’t know if these projections are accurate but I do know that to handle the enormous growth in mobile broadband traffic, we must identify and allocate additional spectrum immediately.
Meanwhile, our global competitors are not waiting around. Wireless innovation is exploding around the globe. For example, the United Kingdom will soon have more than 700 MHz available for mobile broadband; Germany has allocated almost 650 MHz. In the United States, we have just over 400 MHz allocated and a measly 50 MHz in the pipeline. Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and broadband innovators will take their ideas wherever spectrum is available for use. To keep them on our shores, we need to act with urgency.
Before additional spectrum can be allocated for wireless broadband, we need to understand how spectrum is being used currently and by whom. We also need to investigate whether those entrusted with this precious asset are using it efficiently and effectively.
Equally important, the need for new commercial spectrum must also be balanced against the needs of our national security apparatus. Bandwidth-intensive applications also strain the networks of our military, intelligence and homeland security agencies. They too need sufficient spectrum to accomplish their current missions and plan for their future obligations.
That is why both the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration must rigorously examine current spectrum usage and eliminate inefficiencies where they exist. We must ensure that our national security priorities are not sacrificed to allocate more commercial spectrum.
When it comes to broadband and innovation, America has every reason to feel proud. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The future of our nation’s leadership in innovation and technology, and indeed in the global economy, lies in the balance. We cannot afford to waste time. We must take the next critical step leading to the reuse of spectrum so that our nation will be able to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Hatch chairs the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force.