Wireless policies will affect every Hispanic and small business owner in the country, according to a panel of expert policy analysts and industry small business owners at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual public policy conference.
U.S. Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-California, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, along with several business owners and educators, specifically emphasized the importance of regulating spectrum within the wireless telecommunication industry.
But what exactly is spectrum, and why is it so important to Hispanics?
“To describe spectrum’s impact on wireless communication, imagine living in a city with population x. Next year the city will have population 17x, the following year 24x, and the following 30x,” said panelist Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president of CTIA, an international wireless telecommunications association. “Due to that population explosion the city is going to need more roads and highways for people to get from one place to the next. Spectrum comprises the highways and roads that get wireless communication from one place to the next.”
“At this point, nearly every technology we touch uses spectrum,” said one of the panelists at last week’s conference. Given that spectrum is used for local TV stations, as well as all wireless devices including cellphones, PDA’s, cordless phones, wireless remotes, etc., the impact on our way of life and even our economy is immense.
According to panelist Dr. Michelle Connolly, professor of economics at Duke University, between 2000 and 2006 “more than 38 percent of the U.S. labor market’s growth can be attributed to these technologies.” Today, those numbers are expected to be much greater in an industry growing faster than most.
For Hispanics the impact is even greater, because Hispanics are adopting these technologies at a faster rate than any other group. “By 2015, it is expected that more Hispanics will access the Internet via their mobile devices than via personal computers,” said Genachowski, the FCC chairman.
As business growth and employment searches rely more and more upon Internet communication, combined with the fact that Hispanics are also among the least employed, the most entrepreneurial, and the least likely to reach the Internet via computer, wireless communication access will have a significant economic impact for this demographic.
But spectrum is limited. “If spectrum is not expanded, or at least allocated more efficiently, there could be a significant bottleneck in technological development and implementation that could disproportionately affect those who rely upon these technologies at a greater rate, such as Hispanics,” Genachowski said.
Currently, many companies hold licenses to portions of the broadband spectrum that remain unused. To attempt to mitigate the problem, the FCC recently called for a “voluntary return” of any unused spectrum so that it can be auctioned for more efficient market use.
Will this auction system alone solve the problem? Even Chairman Genachowski admits it will not. “Although the voluntary system creates an incentive for spectrum efficiency, it is still voluntary,” he said. “If companies decide to hold onto spectrum in order to keep control of the market from their competitors, markets cannot act efficiently.”
Although the panelists provided differing opinions on how to solve the problem, one fact is clear. Inefficiencies will continue, regulations may be implemented, and at some point in the future, the spectrum problem is going to affect all Americans, not just the Hispanic community.