Nearly four years ago, President Obama memorably strode into office Blackberry in hand. Among many firsts, he is our nation's first mobile President. His first term was marked by unprecedented attention to ensuring America's global technology leadership. As focus shifts to the next four years, innovation--especially mobile innovation--remains key to our nation's economic recovery and long-term prosperity.
Given this opportunity, I wrote a letter to the president this week urging him to think big and be bold on mobile in his second term. As the President rightly observed on election night, "we've got more work to do." A lot has changed in four years. The U.S. now has more wireless subscriptions than people. We are the first nation where a majority of adults are smartphone owners. That tablet one in three Americans are likely reading this blog post on? It debuted just months before the 2010 mid-term elections.
Mobile connectivity is revolutionizing health care, education, public safety, energy efficiency and many other areas of our lives. Deeply integrating mobile innovation policy into how the White House thinks about economic productivity, job creation, modern governance and global competitiveness can be a further game-changer for our nation.
Here are three key priorities and recommendations that I shared with the President:
Spectrum Policy. Our nation's global competitiveness depends on sound spectrum policies that support continued investment and innovation. Timely incentive auctions to free up broadcast spectrum for mobile use will not only benefit the U.S. Treasury, but the millions of consumers facing a spectrum crunch in the next few years due to a lack of new wireless spectrum to accommodate big data growth. Repurposing underutilized federal government spectrum also is key to addressing network capacity issues. The European Union recently announced the release of additional spectrum, which it claims will allow its countries to "enjoy up to twice the amount of spectrum for high speed wireless broadband as in the United States." Our global rivals see spectrum as a clear competitiveness issue. We must continue to do the same.
Recommendation: Establish a strict timeline for reaching our spectrum goals. Steady, timely progress offers greater certainty to mobile innovators small and large who are creating jobs and delivering the innovation.
Network Investment. Wireless companies invested roughly $94 billion in U.S. mobile networks during President Obama's first term - more capital investment than any other sector. This is a big part of the reason our nation leads in 4G network deployment and adoption. In fact, our country is home to 7 out of every 10 LTE subscribers in the world. But we can't afford to take this early edge for granted.
Recommendation: Consumer- and market-driven approaches have allowed mobile innovation and investment to flourish. The Administration should further those gains by expediting approvals of towers, limiting the scope of Federal review for innovative new wireless infrastructure, and completing work to expedite the siting of wireless facilities on Federal lands. Investment incentives, such as the bonus depreciation initiative, also help keep our nation ahead of the competition.
Mobile Inclusion. U.S. consumers are adopting connected mobile devices at an astounding rate. One third of us already say that mobile is our primary online avenue. More African Americans and Hispanics own smartphones than the national average, and the President's bold objective of providing next-generation, high-speed wireless services to 98% of Americans is within reach. The President's Executive Order mandating that all major Federal agencies make at least two of their services available on mobile devices by 2013 could be a watershed moment for connected government. From services for returning veterans to disaster assistance for those struggling in Hurricane Sandy's wake--effective government should meet the people where they are--in the wireless world.
Recommendation: Put digital inclusion at the heart of all government efforts to update and improve their service to our nation's citizens and businesses. Consider the further benefits to consumers and our economy of a national framework for local and state taxation of digital commerce.
Entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers alike depend on wireless. As President Obama begins his second term, the nation can be stronger, more connected and more competitive with a continued emphasis on tech-savvy leadership.
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Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future (www.mobilefuture.org), has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served in the Clinton Administration as a Director on the National Security Council.
Mobile Future is a 501(c)(4) coalition comprised of and supported by technology businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. For a full list of members and sponsors and to learn more about the coalition, go to www.mobilefuture.org.