The FCC’s work on light-touch regulation and spectrum allocation continues to enable the internet and technologies of the future

Under Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications
Commission’s (FCC) work on light-touch regulation and spectrum allocation has
made a big difference in helping advance next-generation technologies. The
policy changes made by the current FCC have created jobs in the
telecommunications and technology sectors by creating incentives for investment
in infrastructure and a demand for advanced internet services. And this month’s
FCC meeting was an assurance that the government will continue to modernize
telecommunications regulations to encourage continued infrastructure
investments. 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai presides over a commission meeting, via Reuters

The Restoring Internet Freedom Order has been a key component
to the FCC’s light-touch regulatory approach. As my AEI colleague Daniel Lyons writes, “By reducing the regulatory burden on broadband
providers, the order makes it easier for companies to invest in improving and
expanding their broadband networks.” This benefits consumers, and he also notes
that the order promotes innovation “particularly in a business environment as
dynamic as the internet ecosystem.”

As a result of these investments, more companies can expand
broadband service across America. Rural areas can see their economic prospects
enhanced as broadband access expands. But achieving this means finding the
right mix of technology and innovation that can bring connectivity into
previously unserved area. While the speed of 5G mobile technologies isn’t absolutely
necessary to have connectivity in all areas, having access to broadband enables
more remote learning, more remote work capabilities, and increased business
opportunities. On Tuesday, the FCC voted to establish a $9 billion 5G fund
providing federal support for rural broadband.

This FCC has also placed a tremendous amount of effort into improving the efficiency of how the limited resource of wireless spectrum is allocated. Reallocating and repurposing some spectrum bands can create spectrum-sharing opportunities that are more efficient and can create economically superior outcomes. Innovation and technology advancement have demonstrated that optimizing this valued resource is key to our digital future. As engineer Peter Rysavy notes in his paper on defining spectrum efficiency:

Since spectrum is a precious
commodity, knowing how efficiently different technologies and applications use
it allows users and operators to make the best decisions on what wireless
technology to deploy and in what configuration. Understanding spectrum
efficiency can also assist policy makers better decide on how to most
effectively allocate spectrum and to whom.

Better, more efficient spectrum management means better
signal quality, better bandwidth, and better network speeds. To deploy our
knowledge about how to best use spectrum, we need to be open to changing or
exchanging some of the current uses and users of spectrum to ensure the best
outcomes.  

Another area in which the FCC has been doing important work
is very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) broadcast TV bands
known as “TV
white spaces
” for mobile and Wi-Fi applications beyond their current use by
unlicensed devices with limited reach. Allowing this segment of spectrum to be
opened up can enhance the capabilities of many Internet of Things devices and
provide service in these previously blocked spectrum bands.

Access to this spectrum could bring additional resources to
unserved Americans who have had digital connectivity challenges with
traditional wired infrastructure. Even Congress agrees that the use of TV white spaces will enable
unserved and limited-population areas to have more cost-effective access to
internet connectivity with minimal infrastructure buildout required due to the
unique qualities of this level of spectrum being available to the open market.

These policy and regulatory changes have strengthened today’s
internet. As Chairman Pai wrote in a blog post earlier this month, “We replaced the prior
administration’s heavy-handed regulation with a consistent, light-touch
regulatory approach that protects the free and open Internet, encourages
infrastructure investment, and requires strong transparency from broadband
providers for consumers and innovators alike.” As infrastructure investments
enable the next generation of networks to be deployed, we will see even more
market opportunities to enhance our economy, enable education, and keep our
lives moving forward.

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