Cisco estimates that–as global Internet usage triples over the next three years–mobile broadband use will increase 11-fold over the same period. Currently, the government hoards valuable wireless spectrum for its own use, which leaves broadband providers with few options to meet the growing consumer demand for bandwidth.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) took an important step toward addressing the spectrum cruch in introducing the Wi-Fi innovation act. The bipartisan effort would open up more spectrum for Wi-Fi services by allowing private citizens to share use of a spectrum band with smart car technologies. While the FCC allocated this band for intelligent transportation technologies years ago, they’ve been slow to take off and, regardless, there’s plenty of spectrum to share.
The bill would certainly help alleviate the spectrum crunch, but its focus on government-private sharing of spectrum could lead to inefficiencies. Gregory Vogt of the Free State Foundation prefers the approach in Rubio’s Wireless Innovation Act, which focuses on licensing spectrum for exclusively commercial use. He explains:
The Rubio legislation seeks to enable the continuation of this American success story. The exclusive commercial wireless spectrum would add needed capacity for LTE systems. And, increasingly, Wi-Fi and its connection to high bandwidth wired connections will increase the flexibility of and accessibility to all broadband. The mobile nature of these advances is necessary to achieving the Internet of Things, transforming a multitude of ordinary devices into more intelligent and useful ones. By ensuring adequate spectrum capacity, investment incentives improve, helping to meet consumer demand and improve consumer welfare.
See our other work on privatizing spectrum, especially:
- Our post on the Rubio-Booker Wi-Fi Innovation Act, “Bipartisan Bill Would Free Up Wasted Government Spectrum”