By Jason Llorenz, LIN@R
President Obama has much to be proud of in his four years as President, including managing us through the economic meltdown and strengthening the safety net for Americans still struggling to make ends meet.
But, as he embarks on his second term, seeking to secure his legacy, he might take a cue from a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing, which focused on modernizing our telecommunications networks and the way the government regulates them.
In plain language, the discussion among lawmakers and the five FCC commissioners who testified came down to this: policymakers need to do everything possible to bring communications regulations and infrastructure into the 21st century.
More specifically, they must help expedite the transition to advanced communications infrastructure so that Americans enjoy the full benefits of broadband-based Internet service.
The transition, which involves changing from technology designed for old fashioned phone service to high-capacity IP networks designed to deliver voice, video and data, mean faster and more reliable service for more Americans. Possibly aided by the kind of trials runs used in the switch to digital TV, updating networks for the 21st century should be a no-brainer.
Modernizing telecom is a natural goal for President Obama, who has vowed to deliver high-speed broadband service to 98 percent of Americans. It also would have the happy consequence of creating quality jobs, an area where the administration is still struggling.
As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski summed it up in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Few sectors have more job-creating innovation potential than broadband, particularly mobile broadband.”
Combined with a new push to expand broadband deployment and adoption, updated networks also will help deliver social justice by providing better access to jobs, educational opportunities and quality health care to people at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Committee members from both parties also pressed commissioners to expand the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband by moving ahead with a spectrum auction targeted for 2014. Sen. Thune (S.D.), for example, urged the commissioners to boost spectrum supplies “as quickly as possible.”
The growing popularity of wireless service is stretching the current spectrum inventory to the limit and threatens to create wireless traffic jams in which Internet connections drop, videos freeze, and phone calls can’t get through.
Boosting spectrum supplies is essential for keeping our wireless devices working. A successful auction would provide spectrum to those who are ready to put it to work fast to meet consumer needs.
With just about every part of the economy now linked to the Internet, adding spectrum and modernizing our networks so that everything travels across its infrastructure should be an economic and opportunity bonanza.
Making sure that every American has access to broadband also means a wider distribution of the economic benefits of America’s technology sector. If he can make those things happen, the President will have even more to be proud of.
This article was first published in LIN@R.
Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. Is Senior Fellow, Latino Information Network (LIN@R), Rutgers University School of Communication and Information Studies; he is also Director of Innovation Policy for LIN@R. Follow him on Twitter @llorenzesq and follow LIN@R technology tweets@LINAR_technolog.
[Photo by GSCSNJ]