APRIL 12, 2011

·      Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing this afternoon.

·      When I was chairman of this subcommittee, I introduced legislation to require the federal government to vacate 200 megahertz and auction the spectrum for commercial use.

·      This requirement became law with the enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, unleashing a new boom of innovation and competition, spurring hundreds of billions of dollars of private sector investment, and enabling the creation of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th wireless providers.

·      These new competitors challenged the wireless provider duopoly that was offering analog service at 50 cents a minute. 

·      The new companies entered the market with digital technology, forcing the incumbents to finally innovate and invest.

·      And what happened?  Prices went down, and investment went up.

·      Wireless became a technology for the masses, not just for business executives who could afford to pay 50 cents a minute. 

·      We moved quickly from black rotary dial phones to the Blackberry. 

·      Over the past few years, there’s been explosive growth in the use of wireless devices, services and applications.  For example,

  • There are now 303 million wireless subscribers, up 6 percent from the 2009 year-end number.
  •  More than 2 trillion text messages were sent and received last year, up 31 percent from 2009.  Teens alone send an average of 3,339 texts per month.
  • There are 78.2 million active smartphones, up 57 percent since 2009.
  • Five billion apps were downloaded last year— up from 300 million in 2009. 

·      To provide some sense of scale, if the world's population grew as the same rate as mobile app usage, it would have gone from 7 billion people in 2009 to 112 billion in 2010.

·      As the author of the provision in the Recovery Act to require the FCC to develop the country’s first National Broadband Plan, I am pleased that the Plan crafted by the Commission emphasizes the importance of mobile broadband for creating jobs, driving innovation and contributing to advances in health care, education, homeland security, civic participation and other issues vital to our country.

·      The Obama administration’s National Wireless Initiative to make available high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans is a tremendously important undertaking.

·      It will spur innovation, and create a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety, while reducing the national deficit by approximately $10 billion.

·      Spectrum is the oxygen of the wireless ecosystem. The surging growth in data-intensive devices, applications and services is leaving our mobile economy gasping for air.

·      I commend the FCC for moving aggressively to address the looming spectrum shortage, including freeing up TV “white spaces” spectrum to enable new technologies like “Super Wi-Fi” and making new innovative “Super Wi-Fi” devices available soon.

·      Still, the scarcity of assignable frequencies for licensing will impede the development and commercialization of new broadband communications products and services; reduce the capacity and efficiency of our country’s broadband communications systems; and adversely affect the productive capacity and international competitiveness of the U.S.  economy.

·      The National Broadband Plan includes recommendations that legislation be enacted to enable television broadcasters to voluntarily relinquish a portion of their licensed spectrum, share facilities with other licensees, and continue to serve the public with free over-the-air broadcast television service.

·      Such voluntary action and channel sharing could make available valuable spectrum for economic growth and innovation and offer broadcasters a portion of the auction proceeds and additional choices in the marketplace, while retaining service in the communities in which they broadcast.

·      Many broadcasters may voluntarily participate and utilize auction proceeds to bolster the news and civic information they provide to local communities.

·      The public interest would be advanced by legislation that will give television broadcasters a range of marketplace choices, including voluntary relinquishment of frequencies and introduction of mobile television services.

·      When it comes to the communications needs of public safety, I understand the imperative of ensuring that our brave first responders have the communications tools they need to do their dangerous jobs.

·      I served on the Homeland Security Committee when it was first established in 2003 until 2007, and I’m from Massachusetts, where those two planes took off headed for the World Trade Center Towers almost 10 years ago.

·      I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on an effective, efficient spectrum policy that fosters innovation and job growth while also ensuring that we never again repeat the communications failures on 9/11 that led to the loss of life of our first responders.

·      I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.