At an event held recently in Washington D.C., net neutrality in relation to the mobile channel was discussed in detail with a panel of mobile and policy thought leaders which included FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.
Two primary challenges were identified facing the FCC’s current broadband strategy, which include the spectrum crunch and reforming the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to include broadband. ”Delays in fixing spectrum scarcity could hurt the economy,” said Mr. Genachowski. ”There’s no quick fix when spectrum runs out and the rest of the world won’t wait for the US to get it right as they have in the past.” While a bulk of the conversation at the event centered on access to traditional broadband across the U.S., the same is true to mobile/wireless access to broadband, as well as creating a level playing field for companies and organization who wish to innovate on top of it.
Genachowski has proposed a fix that includes “two-sided” auctions to reallocate spectrum and without it the U.S. faces the threat of losing its competitive advantage, he warns. Current broadband statistics tell a similar story, with an estimated 25 million people in the U.S. being out of reach of broadband service and another 100 million not having the ability to afford broadband. As Genachowski puts it; “if those numbers were for electricity or phone service, we’d be a third-world country, and too many people are being left out of the digital economy.”
While the event centered on discussions on what can be done in relation to net neutrality across any channel, the general consensus was that it’s up to the FCC to induce the change necessary. ”The biggest remaining barrier to mobile technology is high-speed data access from anywhere,” said Computech president Larry Fitzpatrick who spoke on the panel. ”While the private sector has handled computing power and storage, it can’t solve data access on its own since it involves a public resource (spectrum) and the FCC has to be part of the solution.”
We’ve covered this topic a lot in the past, mostly in relation to mobile content providers and other innovative mobile companies who feel the current laws in place (or lack thereof) impede a level playing field for everyone — especially when it comes to wireless carriers. Groups like the Mobile Internet Content Coalition (MICC) use this as their sole focus in lobbying congress for change. Still, it’s the FCC that has the power to change things, and maybe some day they will.