Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Tuesday spoke at State of the Net West, a technology forum hosted by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee. Her prepared remarks follow:
“As I look around the room, I see laptops, smartphones and tablets – a reflection of our insatiable appetite for wireless broadband. Last year alone, U.S. mobile data traffic grew by almost 300 percent. And with traffic estimated to grow an additional 16 times by 2016, we must make freeing up more spectrum a top priority. “Recognizing that the looming spectrum crunch is very real, much of my work as Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee has been focused on how to repurpose this scare resource towards wireless broadband.
“The passage of bipartisan spectrum legislation earlier this year was an important victory for our Subcommittee and the wireless industry but even more so for our nation. More than 10 years after 9/11, we finally delivered on our promise to provide our first responders with a nationwide, interoperable communications network. We’ve committed to a next-generation 9-1-1 system, enabling first responders to receive photos, video, and text messages, which can improve the quality and speed of emergency response. Unlicensed spectrum will continue to be a platform for innovation that supports the next generation of entrepreneurs and small businesses, enabling new applications and services like: smart grid, medical patient monitoring and broadband Internet access to local schools, libraries and other anchor institutions. Through incentive auction authority broadcast television spectrum can be repurposed on a voluntary basis to support our growing demand for wireless broadband.
“With the process for implementing these important provisions now underway, we should turn our attention to what faster, more robust wireless broadband access means for innovation, job creation and investment here in Silicon Valley, and whether any barriers stand in the way of continued growth.
“Just four years ago, Apple’s App store contained only 500 third-party apps. Today, there are over 500,000. And based on a study released just last week, the app economy has created 151,900 jobs in California, with an economic impact of more than $8 billion. These apps inform, entertain, and make lives easier every day. No longer are mobile devices just a means for accessing e-mail and basic news on the go. They now allow us to stream movies, play online games, participate in video conferences, and much more.
“Despite this growth, I worry about a growing set of threats that could curtail what’s underway. As the FCC’s open Internet rules continue to be litigated, we’ve seen recent examples that test the spirit of these rules, including the blocking of some customers from using Apple’s FaceTime video app over the AT&T network. I still believe the FCC has the authority to carry out its rules, but should the court overturn those rules, I will act quickly to introduce legislation clarifying the Commission’s authority to ensure a free and open Internet, while preventing the use of Internet “fast lanes” or other discriminatory tools.
“Today’s video marketplace looks very different than the one that led Congress to pass the 1992 Cable Act. This has led many to ask whether changes in the way people consume video, particularly online, requires a Congressional update. Clearly, consumers want the freedom and flexibility to stream video content whenever and wherever they are. Yet, the rules preventing incumbent cable operators from withholding affiliated content from competitors, never anticipated online-based services like XFINITY Streampix or Hulu Plus. While we should be cautious not to enact rules that could curtail investment in these innovative services, their affiliation with incumbent providers shouldn’t be used to lock out competitors.
“Third is the use of discriminatory data caps and their potential to impact the growing streaming video market. Earlier this summer, it was widely reported that the Department of Justice had begun looking into whether data caps unfairly limit online video competition. While we don’t know the extent of this inquiry, it falls on my Subcommittee to thoroughly examine the issue and ensure that future innovation is not curtailed.
“Finally, is the importance of data roaming rules that promote competition and the seamless availability of the wireless services consumers have come to expect. Such rules are particularly important for smaller wireless carriers who often have little choice for roaming partners other than their largest rivals. Last month, oral arguments were heard in a case challenging the FCC’s data roaming rules. I’ve consistently advocated for Commission action in this area, and I’ll continue to do so in order to ensure a competitive wireless marketplace.
“I’m proud of our Subcommittee’s accomplishments this Congress, but we have much more work ahead. In addition to the issues I’ve highlighted today, I expect we’ll continue in the next Congress with an emphasis on how federal agencies can more efficiently use the spectrum they hold, both through reallocation and sharing. Vigorous oversight will be needed to ensure the successful implementation of voluntary incentive auctions and the nationwide public safety communications network. The failure of Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this year is unacceptable and will need to be addressed as soon as possible. And finally, the Subcommittee will need to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) which expires in December 2014.
“Throughout these efforts, my focus will be on championing policies that advance innovation, competition and ensure a vibrant sector that benefits consumers for many years to come.”