Jason Furman, deputy director of the Obama administration's National Economic Council brought a shout-out from the president to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski Thursday as part of the commission's spectrum summit in Washington.
Furman, who moderated a panel on the spectrum crunch for mobile broadband, said the issue had been discussed with the president on a number of occasions, that he was "personally excited" and signed off on an effort to double the spectrum available for mobile broadband, and that the president was "pleased with [Genachowski's] leadership."
Furman was surrounded by tech execs and analysts on the panel --from Qualcomm, Dell, T-Mobile-- who said it was critical to free up more spectrum to meet an anticipated 35-times increase in demand, driven in part by the proliferation of multiple device users. Genachowski illustrated that point during his opening speech for the summit, pointing out that he had two smart phones and a tablet -- from which he was reading his speech.
The chairman said in that speech that the country was at an inflection point on mobile broadband. "
"Historically, it takes between 6 and 13 years to repurpose licensed spectrum for new uses. We need to get moving now. We don't want to find ourselves in a spectrum crunch with consequences we can predict - frustrated innovators, frustrated investors, and frustrated consumers with the choice of lousy service or sky-high prices."
The other side of freeing up spectrum is the broadcasters that will need to give up some of their spectrum as part of the plan. "I'm pleased that broadcasters are thinking seriously about what this value proposition means to them, how it can help their business," the chairman said. "I appreciate the constructive engagement we've had with broadcasters on how we can make an incentive auction work."
That would be the auction of broadcast spectrum given up in exchange for a cut of the revenue generated, a move that will require congressional action.
Genachowski said swift action by Congress to do that will be "a critical step toward more efficient spectrum," but that the FCC needs to act now to lay the groundwork for that.