With the growing Hispanic population’s expansive and explosive use of wireless mobile devices comes a need for the government to make more spectrum available to companies eager to expand service offerings and coverage. That was the case presented yesterday at a briefing on the importance of spectrum availability to Hispanic markets. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
Panelists made the case for Congress to pass the pending Incentive Auction bill which would enable the FCC to make new spectrum available for auction. The bill also calls for a profit sharing model. Currently, auction proceeds go to the US Treasury. Should the bill be passed, owners of unused or inefficiently used spectrum would share in revenues generated from the auction of their spectrum.
Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs, responded to broadcaster claims that upwards of 15% of low income users, including minorities, rely on over the air broadcast signals. According to Marsh, Congress is “giving authority to the FCC to do what will encourage more existing owners to offer up their licenses, not require them to.”
“It’s a win-win proposition because the legislation would make the move voluntary,” added Marsh.
Marsh cited extremely successful AT&T stores in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods as an example of the increasing need for spectrum. There is an increased need for spectrum in other arenas including the health sector.
Echoing that sentiment was Mark Hugo Lopez of the PEW Hispanic Research Center. He shared stats about the growing use of mobile phones in the Hispanic markets as point of entry for broadband access. Lopez noted that Hispanic usage of mobile devices is disproportionately high compared to all users, citing “41 percent of Latino households are cell phone only” and that “44 percent of Latinos own smartphones.”
“Opening up more spectrum will contribute to the creation of 300,000 to 700,000 new jobs and expand the GDP by $73 to 150 billion over the next ten years,” panelist Neil Fried, Telecommunications Counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.
“The FCC doesn’t need to micromanage the resource,” argued Fried. “Get out of the way, and don’t encumber the process; and you will see how fast private companies get services to growing markets like the Hispanic market, which is hungry for it.”
Stalled since December 2011, there are House and Senate versions of a bill that would enable the FCC to auction off spectrum currently allocated for broadcast use, and permit companies to use it for wireless services. In the meantime, interested parties have been working out the details. The hope is that the FCC will not become overly involved in the process, thus delaying it further, but will recognize an immediate need to make additional spectrum available.