When the Federal Communications Commission was established in 1934 to regulate interstate telecommunications, the tools and broadcasting breadth was limited. With the rapid innovation in broadcast, the widespread use of the Internet and, increasingly mobile, the FCC has had to really adapt on its feet.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stopped by the Zillow offices recently to discuss some of the challenges facing the FCC as well as the commission’s goals for the future.
One of the first things that Genachowski mentioned was that the FCC has significantly fewer regulations than other countries— something he sees as “a good thing.” And unlike other government agencies, the FCC acts independently. The commission acts under the authority of Congress to implement the Communications Act. The work of the agency is non-partisan.
“It’s difficult right now, but these issues [facing the FCC] are so important to our economy,” said Genachowski. “Broadband powered communications technologies are a bright spot in our economic recovery.”
Additionally, Genachowski discussed the growth of mobile broadband and in particular, the looming spectrum crunch. The airwaves that enable high-speed Internet to power your smartphone or tablet is called spectrum. A smartphone uses 24 times more spectrum than a basic phone, and a tablet uses 125 times as much a spectrum. Genachowski discussed an innovative, market-based mechanism to free up more spectrum called voluntary incentive auctions.
“As mobile broadband becomes increasingly vital to economic growth, we must ensure that spectrum supply meets the growing demand. Without action, we will see mobile growth choked by spectrum congestion, and consumers — both individuals and businesses — facing deteriorating service and needlessly rising prices.” Genachowski said. He said Congress must vote to give the FCC authority to conduct the auctions, which would produce billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury.
One big take-away from the talk? The chairman encouraged business people– those working in the private sector– to get involved in government.
“It’s a bad thing if decisions are only made by people who run off the government,” he said. “I think the business community under-weighs its ability to influence government. We really should have a cross-section of business leaders saying to government ‘this is how we should do it.'”
Genachowski pointed to a recent public-private partnership called Jobs4America, which the FCC helped to launch. Earlier this month, Genachowski joined a coalition of companies to announce the creation of 100,000 new call center jobs in the U.S. over the next two years, many brought to this country from overseas. He pointed to the fact that this would not have been possible without high-speed internet, and said that, thanks to broadband, companies are able to put call centers in communities hardest hit by the recession, which would have been impossible a few years ago.
Genachowski said that this was just the “tip of the iceberg” for how broadband can help revitalize communities and fuel job creation nationwide.