FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
It is high time we give unlicensed spectrum -- airwaves open to all under technical rules -- its due.
Because it is an essential part of the wireless ecosystem, a critical part of wireless service, and an important input into the modern economy. In fact, the economic impact of unlicensed spectrum has been estimated at $140 billion annually. By any measure that is a lot.
So I think it is time for an unlicensed spectrum game plan. It should no longer be an afterthought in our spectrum policy. It deserves attention upfront, in policy prime time.
An unlicensed game plan takes high-band, mid-band, and low-band spectrum. High-band spectrum provides the large channels necessary for high-definition video at short distances—think streaming video from your laptop to your television. Mid-band spectrum sacrifices some of that throughput, but gives you further reach. Low-band spectrum can go far and wide, and as a result is ideal for larger-scale Wi-Fi deployments and machine-to-machine communications.
To build powerful wireless communications systems, you need a playbook that includes all three.
About a year ago I came to your community and said I have an idea. I said we need to reboot and reinvigorate E-Rate. Here’s something I’ve learned.
It’s good to have friends in Washington -- but it’s better to have an army. And you and thousands of others who are deeply invested in our schools, our students, and the future of education have marched together and put E-Rate reform right at the top of the agenda in Washington.
We have a proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission designed to look at this program from top to bottom. We have reform ideas before us from stakeholders of every stripe. And we have an Administration geared up and in sync with its ConnectED initiative.
But connection to schools is no longer enough. We need speed. We need broadband -- not just to the school door, but to the classroom. Beyond speed, we need simplicity.
The bureaucracy of the E-Rate program has become too much for too many of our schools to bear. So we need to make it easier for beneficiaries to participate in this program. Finally, we need to spend E-Rate dollars smart. We need to phase out old services and make room for more high-speed broadband. We need to restore what inflation has taken away from this program. Then we need spend what it takes to connect all our students -- no matter where they go to school.
At the SXSWedu Conference & Festival, Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel set out her perspectives on modernizing the E-Rate program.
“At the FCC we recently started a reform effort to modernize our E-Rate system -- what I like to call E-Rate 2.0. Just like with the evolution of any operating system, we need to take the good that we have put in place, build on it, and upgrade it for the future.”
The Three S’s of E-Rate reform: Speed, Simplify, and Spending Smart.
- Speed. In the near term, we want to have 100 Megabits per 1000 students to all of our schools. By the end of the decade, we want to have 1 Gigabit per 1000 students to all of our schools.
- Simplify. We need to reduce the bureaucracy associated with E-Rate.
- Spending Smart. “Spending smart means better accounting practices that the FCC has already identified will free up for more E-Rate broadband support over the next two years. But spending smart goes beyond that. Because on a long-term basis we need to make sure that all E-Rate support is focused on high-speed broadband.”
Remarks Of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel Wi-Fi In The 5 Ghz Fast Lane The National Press Club
The demand for our airwaves is growing at a blistering pace. Indeed, the need for more licensed spectrum -- the airwaves that can be controlled by a single wireless operator -- has been widely recognized.
In fact, this led Congress to direct the FCC to hold a series of auctions for licensed airwaves that will take place over in 2014 and 2015. But what is less well known is that demand for unlicensed spectrum -- airwaves open to all under some basic technical rules -- is also growing. So the spectrum that powers Wi-Fi and a slew of our daily activities and devices is also getting more congested.
So why does this matter? First, the unlicensed economy represents economic growth. Residential Wi-Fi has been estimated to contribute between $16-37 billion to our economy annually. More recent economic studies that add up the broader impact of unlicensed spectrum on the economy estimate its annual value at more than $140 billion. By any estimate, the value of unlicensed spectrum is big. Second, the unlicensed economy represents innovation. Keeping airwaves open and available for unlicensed experimentation could yield a new world of gee-whiz devices and wireless services. Third, the unlicensed economy represents Internet connectivity. Wi-Fi is an essential onramp to the Internet.
While this unlicensed spectrum continues to serve Wi-Fi well, it is getting mighty crowded. So I think the FCC should do something about it. Let’s start by leaving behind the tired notion that we face a choice between licensed and unlicensed airwaves. Because good spectrum policy requires both. Moreover, I think this kind of division is a simplistic relic from the past. And to help meet this demand for unlicensed services, we have a terrific near-term opportunity in the 5 GHz band.