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OECD Underscores Priority of Open Internet, Mobile Networks

Mobile technology is a driving force behind virtually every industry, not to mention the myriad ways that we each use mobile computing in our daily lives.  These technologies are fundamental to virtually every economic and social activity conducted globally.  Mobile networks are as intrinsic to the U.S. and global economies as transportation and energy networks.  And a report recently published by the OECD underscores that he demand for services is growing at such a pace that the existing available wireless spectrum won’t be nearly good enough to handle the traffic in the years to come.

Today, the amount of available spectrum is running smack into the constant evolutions in mobile computing -- smartphones, tablets, wearable tech, and things that we haven’t yet imagined.  The OECD report notes that the average mobile broadband growth rate in 2011 was 29.1%, but some countries are seeing expansion at incredibly accelerated rates:  Chile (114.0%), the Czech Republic (324.8%), Estonia (121.2%), Mexico (156.8%), Spain (135.9%) and Turkey (343.3%).

These are astounding figures, and, as we saw in last month’s 2012 Ericsson Mobility Report, the growth is continuing to explode.  In fact, these OECD 2011 numbers almost seem conservative.  And all of the data highlight in vivid fashion the imperative of a global mobile network that is driven by an Internet economy that is open for innovation and competition. 

That’s why the discussions on the future of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are essential to the future of the global mobile market.  As my colleague, Ken Salaets, has written, our work around the ITU is focused on protecting, for the long-term, the neutral, multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance.  It is a mission that is echoed by today’s OECD report, which gives policymakers a direction to ensure a multi-stakeholder approach and avoid regulation. 


As a decentralised network of networks, the Internet has achieved global interconnection without the development of any international regulatory regime.  The development of a formal regulatory regime . . . could risk undermining its growth.  The Internet’s openness to new devices, applications and services is a key feature in its success and, consequently, its rapid adoption.  In turn, this has enabled service providers and users to develop and adapt new features and capabilities to meet their requirements.  There is continuously evolving interaction and independence among the Internet’s various technical components, enabling collaboration and innovation, even while they operate independently from one another. This independence permits policy and regulatory changes in some components without requiring changes in others or effecting innovation and collaboration.


While this international engagement is happening, we are also taking steps in the U.S. to ensure that mobile networks don’t face a data traffic jam.  We’ve encouraged the FCC to move forward with incentive auctions to transition spectrum for mobile broadband use.  These auctions can free up 100+ MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband service – a good step to help alleviate the pressures on mobile networks. 

We’re also focused on the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, which called for making 300 MHz available for mobile broadband use by 2015, and 500 MHz by 2020.  We are advocating for freeing up underutilized spectrum held by the government to help meet those goals.  Congress has held hearings on transitioning federal spectrum to broadband, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC are in the process of identifying and suggesting spectrum bands that could be used for this purpose.

The demand for mobile services and fast, agile networks is only going to grow.  It is essential that policymakers recognize the role that these networks play in our world, and take steps to ensure that they remain robust and encourage innovative products and services that benefit people around the world.


Public Policy Tags: Broadband, Communications, & Spectrum, Internet Governance