This morning, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai delivered a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The focus of the speech was the best ways for the Commission to foster investment and innovation as it moves forward, an important subject not just for technological advancement but for job creation and the overall health of America’s economy.
Pai started out the speech with a bit of gloom:
One beacon of economic hope should be the information and communications technology (or ICT) sector. Unfortunately, recent numbers paint a dreary picture. According to figures released by the Labor Department less than two weeks ago, there are now fewer jobs in the information sector of our economy than at any point since November 1989.
Pai called this state of affairs “unacceptable,” and recommended action on the Commission’s end to help turn the trend around:
[T]he FCC must act with the same alacrity as the industry we oversee. That’s not to say we should rush to regulate, but delays at the Commission have substantial real-world consequences: new technologies remain on the shelves; capital lies fallow; and entrepreneurs stop hiring or, even worse, reduce their workforce as they way for regulatory uncertainty to work itself out. The FCC has long had a reputation in Washington as an agency that moves too slowly, and our current Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and the hardworking staff at the Commission have made improvements on this front by reducing the agency’s backlog. But we need to do much more to fix the problem. As the pace of change in the industry accelerates, the costs and lost opportunities associated with delays at the FCC grow over time.
One positive step Pai put forward was centered around a piece of legislation now bordering on laughably outdated:
Today, the FCC operates under a Communications Act that was last substantially revised in 1996 — an Act that divides the communications marketplace into silos of technologies and services. But the convergence and competition have rendered this approach hopelessly outdated. Cable operators offer phone and Internet servies. Telecommunications carriers promote video service. Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) providers sell voice service and video conferencing.
Pai then outlined three principles that should guide the FCC moving forward:
• “The FCC should be as nimble as the industry we oversee”
• “The FCC should prioritize the removal of regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment”
• “The FCC should accelerate its efforts to allocate additional spectrum for mobile broadband”
Fleshing out that last principle, Pai offered his vision for allocating more spectrum:
In the coming months, I will be setting forth a comprehensive strategy for meeting our nation’s spectrum needs. Today, I want to offer three specific ideas that we could implement in the short-term to put us on the right path for meeting the targets established in the National Broadband Plan. First, by the end of September, the Commission should adopt service, technical, and licensing rules so that 40 MHz of AWS-4 spectrum can be used for terrestrial mobile broadband…Second, by the end of August, we should take action on pending petitions for reconsideration so that 4G LTE technology can be deployed in the so-called WCS, or Wireless Communications Services, band. Third, the Commission should kick-off the rule-making process for implementing incentive auctions this fall and set a deadline to conduct those auctions no later than June 30, 2014.
Wrapping up, Pai left the audience with hope on the horizon:
Although our nation has been going through tough times these last few years, I am confident that our economy will rebound strongly, and that the ICT sector can help lead the way. We see a glimpse of that future here in Pittsburgh. And if we pursue the right policies in Washington, DC, we can remove barriers to investment and innovation and unleash a wave of economic growth and job creation all across the country. Working together, I know we can make it happen.
All in all, Pai’s speech offered an impressive vision for the Commission moving forward.