You have to like Jessica Rosenworcel, the newest Democratic member of the FCC. Not only does she personally embrace the new technology she’s charged with overseeing – tweeting her thoughts when she wants folks to know what she thinks – but she’s also showing a tendency for new thinking on the issues the FCC wrestles with that often break with orthodoxy.
A case in point is her September 24 tweet embracing secondary market spectrum transactions as, “…an important way to address growing demand for wireless capacity.”
Many, including me, agree with Commissioner Rosenworcel’s observation as just common sense. Chairman Genachowski has been among the most passionate prophets of a spectrum shortage, and secondary market transactions certainly fit his recent proclamation of “the need for speed” in all matters broadband.
After all, what could be more efficient than allowing wireless service providers who need more spectrum to buy it from companies that want to sell what they have? For the most part, however, it’s an idea that’s been popular on the right of the political spectrum than the left. Perhaps, as Bob Dylan foresaw, the times are a-changing.
Sales of spectrum licenses on the secondary market, which require FCC approval, won’t solve America’s spectrum problem by themselves. Reallocating more of the outsized amount of spectrum (perhaps two-thirds of total supply) from government agencies to commercial wireless is also necessary, and incentive spectrum auctions have an important role as well. Spectrum sharing is another idea worthy of exploration, though it’s largely untested in practice and many years away from having the widespread technology needed for it to work.
For now, secondary market transactions between willing buyers and willing sellers are the quickest way to address short-term data demand pressures – especially if regulators speed up the approval process. Resolving the spectrum challenge would be a big economic boon. As Rosenworcel also tweeted, wireless technology is contributing $4.5 trillion to the global economy. We can’t let that evaporate for lack of access to spectrum.
Hopefully, Commissioner Rosenworcel’s tweet is a leading indicator for her fellow Democrats, and the Commission as a whole, and hopefully the FCC can begin responding quickly to the marketplace. Our nation needs a dynamic, innovative wireless marketplace.