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Evidence-Based Policy Making is Particularly Important in Managing Radio Frequency Spectrum

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Screenshot from one of the Silicon Flatirons panels

October 23, 2020 – Evidence-based policy making needs to be framed by the correct questions, agreed panelists at the Silicon Flatirons event on October 13 and 15.

In the first panel, “Evidence-based policy making in perspective,” Adam Scott, director general of spectrum policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Canada, contrasted the questions, “Should we make broadband a human right?” with, “What are the social and economic benefits of connecting a community that hasn’t been connected yet?”

He asserted that the first question is more philosophical and doesn’t directly ask for data, while the second question can be answered very succinctly with data.

Marrying data and decision-making is the best way to think about evidence-based policy making, said Renee Gregory, senior regulatory affairs advisor at Google and moderator of a session on spectrum sharing. She was speaking about work by Thyaga Nandagopal of the National Science Foundation, who had discussed innovate the current spectrum allocation model.

Additionally, evidence-based policy making does not rely on data gathered to answer funded questions, said Blair Levin, nonresident senior fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Levin did allow that to make room for innovation it was sometimes difficult to make policies based on evidence. He cited the theoretical work the FCC did when they made the spectrum policy auctions, pointing out that work wasn’t evidence-based because nothing like that had been done before.

How legislators view evidence-based data

Kate O’Connor, member of the chief telecom counsel’s office for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that in a world of information overload, nearly every person could find information to support their position. Therefore, data needed to be considered holistically.

O’Connor said the communications space was unique because it was so new. The spectrum crunch is a lot different than in the past, and the private sector has more resources than the government in some cases.

There’s bipartisan consensus that the FCC hasn’t done a good job of collecting data, said Levin. He suggested having real experts used to looking at data examine the types of data needed for effective spectrum policy.

Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at Technology Policy Institute, said that a lot of the FCC’s data collection methods are really antiquated. He said we should be supplementing our data with surveys like the ones in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and added that it would be nice see the two agencies work together better. He also advocated for transparency in data submission, saying transparency allowed for contextual data interpretation.

Giulia McHenry, chief of the office of economics and analytics at the Federal Communications Commission, agreed that transparency helps to remove biases when examining evidence.

Others stress the need for enforcement in spectrum management

Dale Hatfield, spectrum policy initiative co-director and distinguished advisor at Silicon Flatirons, said in a later event that evidence-based policy making could prove futile without proper enforcement, and said the FCC should delegate some of their statutory power to private industry.

The better the hypothesis, the lower the cost and burden on a company like Hawkeye to help, said Chris Tourigny, electronics engineer at the Federal Aviation Administration, at the “Spectrum Sharing Policy among Active and Passive Service” panel on Thursday.

Panelists Jennifer Manner, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at EchoStar Corporation, and Ashley Zauderer, program director in the division of astronomical sciences at NSF, emphasized the need for being open to amending data along the way.

The importance of continued communication in policy making was also discussed. Stefanie Tompkins, vice president for research and technology transfer at the Colorado School of Mines, shared that years ago they worked with a communications company to get a software package for multipath technology.

They found many of their signals bouncing and going longer than thought they should, which “led to many middle of the night panic attacks.” The communications company had rounded the speed of light—a cultural mismatch that led to a lot of mistakes. Tompkins said this experience applies to how we interpret facts.

David Redl, of Salt Point Strategies, moderated the first policy making panel.

Innovation

Internet of Things Will Revolutionize Industries as Connectivity Ceases To Be Limiting Factor

Panelists at a WCA event last month said IoT will transform a trillion-plus dollar segment of the economy.

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Photo of Elle Grossenbacher from Twilio

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2021 – With the advent of new mobile wireless technologies such as 5G and latency improvements, the industrial internet of things will prove to be a boon for industries from agriculture to transportation, a conference heard last month.

The Wireless Communications Alliance hosted a virtual event last month titled “IIoT Gizmos and Gadgets” during which a panel of tech experts remarked on the ability of internet-connected devices, facilitated by ubiquitous connectivity, to revolutionize fields integral to the nation’s economy.

Andy Do, president of IoT sensor company Sensorworks, noted that the key attraction with IoT for the industrial sector – estimated to be worth trillions of dollars – is the cost savings. More and more companies, for example, are incorporating remote monitoring of their agricultural crops using these technologies to get a sense of when to tend to them.

Dirk Seidel, business development manager at semiconductor company Renesas Electronics, said the IIoT industry has made significant progress in developing sensors that can monitor a wide variety of conditions in real time, such as carbon dioxide concentration, light intensity, and blood oxygen levels. Aashish Mehta, CEO of TransferFi, a company that makes wireless networks for IIoT sensors, describes this as providing “insights at your fingertips.” A present goal of the industry is to develop technology which combines different types of sensors together while still allowing them to make measurements independently, he said.

According to Elle Grossenbacher, product marketing manager of IoT at cloud communications company Twilio, manufacturing is one industry where IIoT has a large opportunity to expand because of how little factories have already adopted IIoT since its early development.

This is a much slower uptake than has been seen with building automation, where WCA vice president Jeremy Tole says IIoT has been used in energy optimization for decades. Grossenbacher also believes that the government will be one entity that instigates an increase in its usage of IIoT in the near future.

As far as advancements in the IIoT industry in next five years, Tole hopes to see all devices wirelessly connected and powered while Do hopes more IIoT technology will be present in everyday retail settings.

The Federal Communications Commission last month released a notice of inquiry to get a sense of the need for spectrum for IoT.

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FCC Asks for Public Comment on Spectrum for Internet of Things

Internet of Things devices are expected to increasingly flood the market as 5G networks light up.

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Illustration about the Internet of Things by Pete Linforth used with permission

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on spectrum allocation for the Internet of Things, or devices that are connected to the internet.

In its Notice of Inquiry released September 30, the agency seeks comments that “consider and evaluate various related factors” that will hinder the growth of IoT, including “barriers that may hinder the provision of spectrum needed to support uses relating to the IoT” and the role that unlicensed and licensed spectrum plays in the growth of IoT.

The IoT broadly refers to network-connected devices that can collect and transfer data. The number of IoT devices has grown over the past few years. Experts expect this number to continue rising as more households and industries use IoT technologies and as the connectivity-dense next-generation 5G networks facilitate more connections.

According to the FCC, a large amount of spectrum has been licensed using a flexible-use approach that allowed licensees to develop technologies and services according to consumer demand since the 1990s. The FCC asks whether the licensed spectrum made available or “will be available in the future is adequate to support the needs of the IoT.” The commission also asks whether there are spectrum rules that could be modified to facilitate greater spectrum access for IoT deployments.

In a statement, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the the Internet of Things is “transforming our way of life.”  While reaffirming his commitment to addressing the digital divide and internet inequality, the FCC noted that “many Americans will not realize the benefits of IoT; until broadband service is available and affordable to everyone, those without broadband will be left behind during the IoT revolution.”

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a separate statement emphasizing that although the possibilities for IoT have yet to be fully developed, “[i]t’s still early days in the Internet of Things.” The Chairwoman remarked that because 5G wireless systems and low-orbiting satellites “expand the availability of high speed and high-capacity networks, we can expect the pace of innovation to increase” but that the FCC should allocate adequate spectrum for this purpose.

The FCC seeks comment on these issues as directed by Congress in the William Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act. The Act directed the FCC to inquire into the spectrum required to support IoT growth. This comes as the FCC begins auctioning 3.45 GigaHertz mid-band spectrum this week for licenses for 5G use.

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Innovation

Secretary of State Blinken Says Research and Development Critical For Competition Against China

Blinken was touring the University of Maryland laboratories last week.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken

August 16, 2021 – Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month a key consideration for competition with China is to plow investments in research and development, as the Communist nation continues to do the same and export cheap technologies around the world.

 

“The Chinese and Russian governments, among others, are making the argument in public and private that the United States is in decline,” said Blinken at the University of Maryland on August 9, as he was touring the institution’s laboratories.

 

“Nothing would put to rest faster their specious argument about America’s best days being behind us than if the United States made serious investments in our domestic renewal right now.”

 

The United States, previously being the first in the world for research and development relative to its economic size, has fallen to ninth place, according to a recent UNESCO report. In contrast, China has risen to second, according to the same report.

 

Last week, the Senate passed a $1-trillion infrastructure bill that would lay the groundwork for the future, including a timely $65-billion for broadband to help seal the remote learning and work gap that emerged from the pandemic.

 

Targeting China

 

President Joe Biden’s administration has been coupling economic spending and sanctions against Chinese companies to combat the emerging economic superpower and protect national security. Chinese companies carry great influence on the world stage, few more prominent than leading telecom equipment maker Huawei, which has been the subject of bans in the United States and other parts of the world.

 

For example, while Huawei’s greatest 5G equipment competitors are Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson – with Samsung emerging as a potent player in its own right – it is widely reported that the Chinese company’s equipment sells for cheap, making it a more economic choice for countries in Africa. The Chinese government has been accused of spying.

 

An official from Huawei – which has challenged (but was denied) the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to wade into national security matters when it proposed rules in June to prohibit future authorizations to companies posing potential threats – has previously noted that the company doesn’t have much to worry about with the overtures by the Biden government to ban Chinese companies’ access to American chips because it will just make its own.

 

Blinken’s aims

 

Blinken strongly advocated for the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a bill introduced in April that would boost federal funding for U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturing and provide $52 billion over five years for research initiatives. 

 

By investing in infrastructure, Blinken said he believes that this would be the essential thing that the U.S can do to advance its foreign policy because it will increase foreign trade and investment competitiveness.

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