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October 23, 2009
CHICAGO -- Supercomm 2009 -- Forget about wiring rural America. Blair Levin, the man spearheading the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's program to boost broadband adoption nationwide, says the biggest crisis facing the U.S. is a lack of available wireless spectrum.
"This is probably the single most important problem facing this sector and this country," Levin told Supercomm attendees this week.
Due to the proliferation of mobile applications and connected devices, wireless broadband could be a huge growth driver in the U.S. communications industry. But without the necessary spectrum, the country risks falling behind, Levin warned.
"There is huge upside for this country, but if we don't get more spectrum, we are destined to be the Doug Flutie of mobile broadband," Levin said, referring to the former Heismann winner who spent much of his career in the Canadian Football League.
Flutie was a good enough quarterback, but he was only 5'10" -- and as Levin said, "you can't coach height."
While AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has been the poster child for not having enough capacity to meet the demands of wireless devices running on its network, Levin said the problem is bound to become more widespread if the government doesn't take immediate action.
"Within four or five years, if we cannot get more spectrum into the field, it won't just be AT&T's network [that has problems], it will be everyone's network," Levin said.
The problem is that government tends not to work that fast, especially when doling out wireless spectrum.
"Government is not great at projecting a crisis and then moving ahead of time to fix it, but spectrum will be a crisis," said Levin. "It's important to understand that unlike previous administrations, when there was spectrum to be rolled out -- and good spectrum -- we're in a situation where it usually takes six to 13 years and there are no real processes started."
Levin's comments echoed those of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski at CTIA earlier this month, where the commission's chief told crowds that "Spectrum is oxygen."
But Levin underlined the need to begin the process of finding and rolling out more spectrum right away.
"This isn't something you just fix overnight. You need a long-term plan, but if we don't start right now, we'll have big problems," Levin said.
— Ryan Lawler, Site Editor, Contentinople
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