Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski pledged to make more spectrum available to the wireless industry yesterday and called for reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF) in a speech at the Innovation Economy Conference in Washington, D.C.
In his remarks, Genachowski suggested the FCC was preparing to shake up legacy spectrum allocations and make major changes to its spectrum policies.
“In order to support the full flowering of innovation, and to keep the U.S. globally competitive, we will need to find ways to free up new spectrum to mobile broadband,” he said. “This will require examining old allocation decisions – often decades old – and evaluating them against current technologies and consumer demand.”
Genachowski also said the FCC would “encourage more efficient uses of spectrum and devices through innovative spectrum policies.” The FCC also plans to examine unlicensed spectrum to provide a space for developers to “dream up the next miracle wireless technology.”
Genachowski also acknowledged that the explosion of data use was placing “unsustainable strains” on operators’ wireless networks.
“[There] are real congestion and network management issues that operators must address, particularly around wireless networks, and we must allow reasonable network management,” he said, emphasizing the importance of developing policies that “encourage investment and the development of successful business models.”
Genachowski also said it was necessary to reform the $7 billion Universal Service Fund as part of an effort to expand the nation’s broadband infrastructure into rural and underserved markets.
“The key points for today are these: USF is a multi-billion-dollar annual fund that continues to support yesterday’s communications infrastructure,” he said. “We need to wring savings out of the system, protect consumers, avoid flash cuts, while ultimately moving USF in the direction it needs to go to support our 21st century platform for innovation.”
The USF subsidizes service in rural areas and for low-income households. The program is funded through a charge on consumers’ phone bills. The FCC wants to change the USF to help fund the expansion of broadband access in rural and underserved areas.