FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told a Telecommunications Industry Association audience in Dallas Thursday that there should be no more debate about whether there is a spectrum crunch that requires freeing up more spectrum.
"Any objective observer would have to say that the spectrum crunch debate has been put to rest." The chairman has been stumping for legislation to compensate broadcasters and others for giving up spectrum for wireless broadband.
He echoed his vision of a great, big beautiful mobile-broadband enabled tomorrow of remote college student monitoring and healthcare and plumbing tips, and citing Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Groupon and others for finding new ways to connect people to local business.
It was a "carpe digital" moment, with the chairman saying it was time to seize the opportunities of mobile by using mobile satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband, freeing up other spectrum, and being more efficient through sharing and secondary markets.
But the greatest of these, he suggested, was freeing up spectrum. "The single most important step we can take for U.S. leadership in mobile is implementing voluntary incentive auctions," he said. He called it a voluntary process that was rooted in the fee market.
Failing to act now, he said, could lead to higher prices, poorer service, and the stunting of potentially flourishing services.
He was preaching to the choir and knew it, citing TIA's own study that concluded that there was a crunch and more spectrum was needed. TIA companies include AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Microsoft, Apple, and the veritable host of others.
There are several bills that would get the chairman his incentive auction, with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) the most passionate advocate for passing legislation soon, though he is driven by the creation of an interoperable emergency communications network that would be built and maintained via a share in the incentive auction proceeds.
The National Association of Broadcaster, which is not ready to concede the chairman's point, says it is not saying the demand isn't rising, but also thinks that tide can raise broadcasters' boats as well.
"We have never suggested that there won't be increasing demands for spectrum, but most unbiased experts dispute the notion of a crunch outside large urban markets," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Objective observers also acknowledge that broadcasting and broadband are complementary services. Because of our 'one-to-many' delivery architecture, broadcasters are in a better position to reliably deliver video to the masses than are cell phone providers employing a 'one-to-one' transmission system."