“With the July 4th holiday approaching, we are asking all Americans to sign a new declaration — the Declaration of Innovation — and pledge to keep innovation a priority and strategy for our nation.” So says Gary Shapiro, President & CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. They’re the nice people who put on International CES, the world’s largest trade show about … innovation.
This may sound like a self-serving quote; I assure you it is not. I know Gary pretty well and, although the CEA is all about new and exciting electronics, the Declaration of Innovation is about America’s future.
Considering all of the economic and political issues we are facing, innovation may not be on your radar. Or, perhaps you feel like “other people will take care of it.” But, here’s the thing: you need to get involved in America’s future. You can be one of the architects of America’s place in the Information Age. You just need to let your elected leaders know that you want America to be a digital superpower.
Historically, good old-fashioned American innovation has been responsible for everything from the automobile to the light bulb to the first man on the moon. According to the CEA, innovative use of spectrum, or airwaves, have enabled everything from garage door openers and baby monitors to Tablets and SmartPhones. But, today’s public policies are doing little to support innovation in America – and we are facing a “spectrum crunch” that stifles future wireless broadband innovations, too.
Here are some factoids that may help you explain the issue to your friends and colleagues:
According to Google/YouTube: More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than the three major US networks created in 60 years. This may sound like a braggadocios stat from Mountain View – maybe it is. But the important thing to think about is, “how will we allocate our natural resources (airwaves, spectrum, etc.) to allow this huge shift in the media business to continue.
SmartPhones consume 24 times as much data as traditional cell phones and Tablets can use as much as 122 times. Where will all of this bandwidth come from? The FCC regulates who gets to use our airwaves by issuing licenses. In the Information Age, broadband spectrum is a scarce and precious natural and national resource – who should have the rights to use it?
The FCC forecasts a 35% increase in mobile broadband traffic over the next 5 years. Let’s hope the agency is wrong. Broadband traffic should increase at an almost exponential rate – but wait – it can’t because the FCC will control the growth by limiting who gets to use the broadband spectrum, who can charge for it and how it will be used.
Is there a place where we can find the additional wireless broadband capacity our nation needs?
The CEA says that only eight percent of U.S. households (less than nine million of 115 million households) rely on antennas to get television signals. Its research shows that the number has been steadily declining since 2005. This makes intuitive sense. The vast majority of the nation’s 115 million television households get their TV from cable, satellite or the Internet.
So where will this new spectrum come from? One idea is to recapture some of the spectrum that is currently used for broadcast television (antenna households) – a 20th century technology that is a hugely inefficient user of the spectrum. This change won’t hurt the TV industry, the statistics show that the vast majority of Americans over 106 million of the 115 million television households get their television signals from cable or satellite. With the money raised from the auction of the spectrum, you could give each antenna household a 42” flatscreen and satellite, cable or wireless broadband service free for life and still have billions of dollars left over in profit for the Federal Government.
How important is spectrum allocation to our economic future? Well, Japan has identified 400 MHz of new spectrum for auction, Germany 350, the U.K. 355, with France, Italy, Canada and Spain each allocating about 250 MHz. Every technologically sophisticated country in the world already has, or is in the process of allocating immense amounts of bandwidth to enable innovation.
Gary believes that the best way to secure America’s economic future is to rediscover its innovative past. He is asking all of us to sign the Declaration of Innovation to help ensure that America has the technological bandwidth it needs to stay connected; that our nation has the policies in place to remain competitive; and that our children have the tools to compete in a global marketplace. I think it’s a pretty good idea.