How to Actually Get Americans Online

This morning, my letter to the editor to The New York Times was published. With the word restrictions, I didn’t have an opportunity to show some of the ways that Ms. Crawford’s opinion piece missed the mark, so I thought I’d write this blog post.

In her opinion on how to get broadband access to more Americans, Ms. Crawford ignores the reality in the United States and how we compare with the world.

The U.S. promotes competition and innovation.

  • That’s proven by the fact that 98 percent of Americans have access to 3G wireless service today, and more than 90 percent have access to 4G wireless service. These are advanced technologies deployed by competing companies.
  • With five percent of the world’s wireless subscribers and population, wireless providers in the U.S. serve almost half of the world’s LTE subscribers.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently pointed out the U.S. is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s wireless capital investment.
  • That’s just the wireless service providers’ capital investment. It doesn’t count spending by companies that employ more than 519,000 people in wireless application-related jobs here in the U.S. It doesn’t include the spending by the many software, firmware and hardware companies that help make up the wireless ecosystem in the U.S., including the global manufacturers who have located their R&D facilities in Texas, California and other states.

The fact is that we have relied upon competition to drive innovation, choice, and growth here in the U.S. since the birth of the wireless industry. As a result, we’ve been a global leader without a centralized, government-driven and government-funded industrial policy.

Rather than creating a host of new government-funded Internet service providers, innovation and growth would be better served by allocating more spectrum to commercial wireless service.

Numerous engineers and experts, along with the FCC and policymakers, have read the independent reports that show consumer demand will outpace the wireless networks’ capacity soon. Carriers are using all of the tools and “tricks” available to keep up, but more spectrum is needed to meet demand. Fiber is one form of Internet access, but spectrum-based networks are another.

What should be dear to her heart is that more spectrum also means a significant economic boost. By bringing 500 MHz of spectrum to market (as the FCC’s National Broadband Plan advocated), the U.S. will see an increase of: $166 billion in GDP; at least 350,000 new jobs; $23.4 billion in government revenues; and $13.1 billion in wireless applications and content sales.

Surely these are figures that anyone, including Ms. Crawford, could support.

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