Senator John Kerry's statement from the Commerce Committee this past week:
Mr. Chairman, the upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700 band has profound implications for consumers, schools, businesses, emergency first responders, and rural communities. We are presented with a unique opportunity to shape the future of wireless communication and innovation in America.
With this auction, we stand at a crossroads—we can either provide extraordinary benefits to millions of Americans or tilt bandwidth policy to line the pockets of a privileged few.
There is a clear path I believe must be taken: the airwaves belong to the American people, and their use should serve the public interest.
We must establish rules in this auction that encourage competitive entry into the wireless market, spur innovation and increase affordability and availability of broadband services.
There is no argument that we are lagging in deployment. More than 60 percent of Americans do not subscribe to broadband service—primarily because they don’t have access or can’t afford it.
My own state of Massachusetts, a recognized leader in innovation and technological advancement, has a 49% broadband penetration rate. And it is 4th best in the country.
So this auction of very valuable spectrum, takes on heightened importance. How do we ensure it works for the American people?
First, the Commission must promote the broadest level of participation in the auction, to encourage competition – and enable entrepreneurs to think innovatively, and provide affordable, high-speed wireless broadband services. Auction rules should be directed at promoting additional market entrants. Open access proposals and innovative bidding rules must be closely considered.
Secondly, the FCC must settle on strict build out requirements that compel auction winners to offer services. Now, I understand the fears of industry in this area. If we are forced to build networks, it delays service and innovation.
I am confident the Commission can find the appropriate balance – The spectrum must be deployed in a reasonable time. What would be unacceptable is a set of rules that allow large companies to scoop up and warehouse this spectrum. I have been encouraged by the Chairman’s attention to this matter, and I will be looking for a strong set of requirements.
Finally, I am encouraged that the Commission is taking a close look at solutions for public safety. We have been working on the interoperability for quite some time. And despite our efforts, Mr. Chairman, interoperability remains one of our most vexing policy challenges — despite the lessons of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Providing an effective public safety communications network is of paramount importance, and I am encouraged that industry leaders are thinking about the topic in an innovative way.
All Americans have an opportunity to benefit from this auction. This is more than an issue of Government revenue – it is also about expanded access to revolutionary new technology for every American. Our economy, our schools, our families and our first responders are counting on the FCC to conduct a fair auction in the spirit of competition and innovation that drives our country.
I, for one, will be watching closely.