Thursday, October 1, 2020

Guest Blogger: Kristian Ramos “Who Wouldn’t Want Faster Streaming Mobile Broadband?”

Kristian RamosThe other day I came home from work, pulled out my tablet, and began binge-watching Game of Thrones on HBO Go, which I streamed onto my TV. Halfway through the third episode, I realized I needed to get to the gym. I was torn: Should I finish watching Game of Thrones, or go work out? Then it occurred to me…I could do both

I punched up my HBO Go app on my mobile device and headed to the gym. I was able to watch the new episode right where I left off.  Success! Well, mostly…due to a spectrum crunch, my mobile broadband viewing experience was almost as agonizing as finishing up that last mile on the treadmill.

Spectrum refers to the public airwaves that carry all forms of wireless communication.

When you access the Internet on any mobile device, you are using spectrum. It is a finite resource, and with more people accessing the Internet on-the-go, we are increasingly taxing our current supply.

The demand for wireless broadband devices is rapidly growing and increasing the demand for spectrum with each passing day. According to Cisco, smartphones use 50 times as much spectrum as a basic feature (flip) phone, while tablets use 120 times the amount of spectrum.

What many fail to realize is that the rate of growth in spectrum usage continues to accelerate. For example, the amount of spectrum used by mobile broadband data doubled in 2012 and is expected to increase eightfold by 2018.

To address this impending “spectrum crunch,” in 2012 Congress authorized the FCC to conduct a voluntary incentive auction as a way to make additional spectrum from television broadcasters available to commercial wireless providers so that they can meet the ever increasing demand for wireless broadband.

The proceeds of the incentive auction will be used to compensate broadcasters for relinquishing their spectrum and pay for a nationwide broadband public safety network consistent with the recommendation of the 9/11 commission, with leftover funds going toward deficit reduction.

However, for the auction to work properly, the FCC needs strong participation from as many broadcasters and bidders as possible. In fact, 78 House Democrats recently told the FCC as much, writing in a letter: “The FCC must invite as many participants as possible ‘on equal terms’ to an ‘open and fair’ broadcast TV spectrum incentive auction.”

Participation in the incentive auction matters. Remember: The auctions are voluntary, which means broadcasters that are participating do not have to sell their unused spectrum if they do not feel as if they are being fairly compensated.

By increasing the number of bidders participating in the auction, the FCC would improve the financial impact of the auction and enhance broadcaster participation. The more broadcaster spectrum that is available at auction, the more spectrum is available for consumers.

That means fewer dropped calls, better wireless service and, with any luck, better video streaming for those of us who like to watch YouTube videos of kittens on a mobile device.

Why does any of this matter?

Beyond my selfish need to stream video while I work out, the auction will have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, helping with deficit reduction. It also has the potential to generate $15 billion in revenue and pave the way for an enhanced national telecommunications infrastructure.

With more spectrum, family members in rural areas can connect faster, teachers can reach their students quicker, and telemedicine can be employed with greater efficiency. These wireless waves are the lifeblood of mobile connectivity; who wouldn’t want a spectrum transfusion?

Kristian Ramos is a political strategist living in Washington D.C.

This article originally appeared in Voxxi