WASHINGTON April 21, 2011- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski visited the Economic Club of Washington Wednesday to answer questions that covered spectrum auctions and the impending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.
“To continue our growth in mobile broadband we need to free up more spectrum,” Genachowski said. “Spectrum is the oxygen of the mobile world and without more it will be stifled.”
The Chairman then explained to the audience how as mobile devices become more complex they use increasing amounts of spectrum. Currently, smartphones use 25 times more spectrum than older feature phones, and tablets use 145 times as much spectrum.
To obtain more spectrum Genachowski promoted the idea of voluntary incentive auctions. These auctions would sell off some licensees’ unused spectrum and give some of the profits from the auction back to the previous license holder. The rest would go to the U.S. Treasury.
“Recently a group of 112 economists from both parties and a number of Nobel Prize winners have supported the idea,” he went on. “Our estimates show that these auctions would generate between $25-30 billion in revenue which could be used for deficit reduction.”
When asked about the likelihood that the impending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile would be approved, the Chairman declined to comment, but he did say that the Commission takes every merger seriously and is looking to streamline the process.
“There are generally a number of agencies and states which have to review these mergers and it can take months to complete,” Genachowski said. “To speed up the process [the FCC is] increasingly working with the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to conduct the review concurrently.”
Genachowski went on to explain that while the agency promotes the expansion of eGoverment services, until more citizens have access to the internet the government must run two infrastructures – one to process documents digitally another for paper.
“Right now about 10 percent of Americans do not have access while nearly one third are not online,” He said.
When asked by an audience member about the safety of cellphones, Genchowski said that he is not worried about the health effects. “The FCC sets standards for radiation emission based on recommendations we receive from the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.”