I just finished reading through some of the testimony presented earlier today during a hearing before the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on technology, communications, innovation, and the internet. The subcommittee’s focus this morning was on the economic value of spectrum, the airwaves that mobile devices and wireless networks access in order to send and receive data, text, and voice messages.
I was particularly interested in any testimony on unlicensed spectrum. Where access to the airwaves is secured via a license from the Federal Communications Commission, the wireless services provider or device maker uses certain frequencies in exchange for promising to transmit at those frequencies and at a certain level of power so not to interfere with another broadcaster. Television and radio broadcasters and wireless phone companies like Verizon fall into this licensed box.
In other cases, the use of unlicensed access to the airwaves, or spectrum, would best serve the needs of a service provider or consumer. As a consumer, you are familiar with a number of these devices. They include your cordless phone; key fobs for your car; your wireless keyboard.
When I hear about innovation in wireless, I think about what can be done in the unlicensed spectrum space. Unless Oprah Winfrey and Robert Johnson are going to team up and raise funds to build a cell phone company, I don’t see much play for blacks in mobile broadband communications. As we see the internet of things continually emerge, where more devices are connected not only to the internet but to each other, I believe we’ll see more devices being designed and put into the market along with an increase in the intellectual property that supports them.
Also, I’m concerned about the generation of value necessary for attracting wireless facilities into minority neighborhoods. The discussion has centered to much on delivering wireless facilities into minority neighborhoods so that minorities can consume more offerings on the internet. That’s all well and good because deploying facilities into minority neighborhoods provides opportunities to access educational, medical, health, and financial content.
But in my opinion, where minorities can develop content or other valuable data for sale originating in their communities, then broadband companies will have increased incentives to locate there. Also, the intellectual property developed in those neighborhoods as a result of the valuable data and knowledge being generated increases household economic values and in turn attracts additional economic development. The internet of things and the internet of me calls for a knowledge economy that puts production on the same level as consumption. We can and should have both.