Earlier this morning, the leading executives in connected cars from AT&T, Ericsson, Here (a Nokia company), Qualcomm, Sprint and Verizon gathered at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to demonstrate their emerging products and services that will drive consumer safety and health as well as improve environmental sustainability.
According to Boston-based research firm Strategy Analytics, 60 percent of cars in the U.S. will have built-in wireless connections by 2017. This translates into about 10 million new four-wheeled smartphones. As we leverage wireless technology’s unique capabilities to build smarter homes and cities, connected cars will enable Americans to make their road trips healthier, greener, safer and more enjoyable.
Here are a few examples:
- Communication: Built-in features offer a variety of seamless, hands-free and voice-activated communications options.
- Green: Real-time traffic and parking information reduces drive times, lowering carbon emissions for gasoline or hybrid vehicles.
- Health: Integrated sensors gather biometric data and connect to web-based health and wellness services.
- Infotainment: Spectrum connects the car to other devices and digital materials for access to live streaming or cloud-based content and services.
- Maintenance: Wireless enables remote access to engine diagnostics, over-the-air software updates (which can reduce recall rates) and tracking/location of stolen vehicles.
- Navigation: Mobile mapping, driving directions, weather and other information about the surrounding areas eases users’ woes.
- Safety: Vehicles wirelessly “talk” to each other, traffic lights and other road signals. The environment around the car is monitored to detect potential collisions, with steering and/or brakes automatically applied, if needed.
While the event focused on these kinds of incredible innovations and offerings in connected cars, there were two important underlying policy issues.
SPECTRUM. The connected car is only possible if there is more spectrum. It“fuels” the wireless industry, but since spectrum is a finite resource, we must make sure it’s put to its highest and best use. Since consumers are increasingly enjoying some of the many benefits mobile Internet offers, such as connected cars to remote health monitoring, it’s vital that more spectrum is made available so that this kind of innovation is encouraged, and more consumers may experience the connected life.
OPEN INTERNET. A flexible regulatory framework is key to the continued development of the connected car market. When it comes to the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding, it is vitally important that policymakers recognize that “wireless is different.” The innovators who showcased connected car technology today, and others who are developing new apps and devices, should only be limited by their imagination, not stifled by unnecessary government regulation. Even in this emerging connected car market, we already see a host of new options available for consumers. The FCC’s policies should promote the ability of companies throughout the mobile ecosystem to differentiate themselves against others in order to continue to drive innovation. The connected car experience underscores that mobile broadband is an early-stage technology.
General Motors summed up eloquently in its recent filing to the FCC both the benefits of connected cars and the potential harms of adopting rigid, one-size fits-all net neutrality regulation: “real-time traffic and weather data, and vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, could leverage mobile networks…to deliver road safety and efficiency improvements. This variety of data – being accessed in the most mobile of circumstances – will require a range of mobile network management techniques to successfully enable the service provided to our customers. By needlessly constraining the latitude our mobile network operator suppliers have in delivering their connectivity to owners of our vehicles, you would also constrain the innovations we are seeking to provide to our customers...” (emphasis added).
As GM explained, “mobile broadband being delivered to a car moving at 75 mph down a highway – or for that matter, stuck in a massive spontaneous traffic jam – is a fundamentally different phenomenon from a wired broadband connection to a consumer’s home, and merits continued consideration under distinct rules that take this in to account. This is because the Commission can’t define exceptions for ‘reasonable network management’ for circumstances it can’t imagine.”
In response to today's announcement by the FCC, I issued the following statement:
“Given the number of reports that show a continued and significant increase in consumer demand for mobile broadband access, the wireless industry needs spectrum as soon as practicable so that it may continue to serve as the world’s leader and meet Americans’ demands for anytime, anywhere service to live their connected lives. While any delay in spectrum auctions is unfortunate, we appreciate the thoughtful focus the FCC has brought to this complex auction to ensure it is conducted properly to the benefit of all Americans. Today’s action underscores the need to resolve the pending litigation over the FCC’s rules expeditiously. When the auction is held, mobile companies will have their checkbooks ready to participate in this critical auction that will be key to our nation’s wireless future.”
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