In a House Commerce Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee
hearing Wednesday on mobile and online apps, the focus was on jobs, but one of
the messages from legislators was that more spectrum is needed for wireless.
The hearing came the same day that Apple was scheduled to
introduce its latest iteration of the iPhone, which was instrumental in driving
the creation of the app economy, which is now a $20 billion industry and is
predicted to be a $100 billion industry within the next three years.
One of the issues teed up for the hearing was "are
there policies the federal government should consider to foster further sector
growth and job creation?" One of the answers for several committee members
was "yes," and it was freeing up more spectrum.
"Wireless spectrum is critically important and we need
to seek ways to free up additional spectrum," said Subcommittee chairman
Mary Bono Mack in her opening statement. To launch all the mobile apps that
drive job growth, said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), "we've got to have
TechNet CEO Rey Ramsey, a witness at the hearing, echoed the
need for spectrum, as well as adoption in rural areas. He said there have been
almost 500,000 app-related jobs created in the past five years, while various
legislators cited stats, many from TechNet, on the explosive growth of both
jobs and economic activity.
Ramsey praised the FCC's upcoming incentive auctions as an
innovative way to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters, whom he suggested were using
spectrum inefficiently. Witness Morgan Reed of the Association for Competitive
Technology put it bluntly. Of spectrum, he said: "I want it more and I
want it now."
Ramsey said the policy focus in Washington should be on
necessary infrastructure and access. Infrastructure is about capital, human and
money. There is a human capital crunch that needs addressing via education and
training, he told the legislators.
Another key issue was "are there Federal policies that
present a roadblock to sector growth and job creation?" Rep. Fred Upton
(R-Mich.), chair of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that one
roadblock is regulation that could stifle the growth and innovation of the apps
And that growth is unprecedented, said witness Peter Farago,
of app facilitator Flurry Inc. He said that app industry adoption has been
faster than any industry in history, including radio, TV, phones, computers and
Bono Mack demonstrated the pervasiveness of the app economy
with a picture of her grandson, Sonny, and the story that when she was trying
to calm him, she naturally went to the app store to download a baby-soothing
app -- it didn't work, she added.
Bono Mack asked Farago whether the government should be
concerned that the app explosion was like the tech bubble of the late 90s and
whether there was danger of it bursting. He said no, arguing that it was a very
different environment, with over 1 billion people online now versus about 30
million then, and that apps were mostly direct sales rather than an ad model of
old where the idea was to collect eyeballs and hope ad revenue would follow. He
said app developers made about $5 billion last year, 80% of that through direct
sales, though he suggested advertising could take off down the road.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) raised the issue of mobile app
privacy and who owned the data. He used Bono Mack's baby picture as an example,
asking whether she still owned that data, or whether it was the developer or
the distributor (ISP).
ACT's Reed said his association was more focused on doing a
better job of being more transparent about the process, including working with
the White House and the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration on their mobile
app best practices framework.
make it understandable and "absorbable" by the consumer.
Ramsey echoed the need for everyone to understand the
business model and its reliance on data, and that they understand not only
their rights, but their responsibilities given that they were leaving behind a
Cassidy countered that he seemed to be saying that
developers owned the data. Ramsey said it was not a case of ownership, but
where that data resided and what it was being used for.
Reed said they needed the government help in reforming
outdated privacy protection laws being applied to the cloud, laws that