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ALA / Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, the first-of-its kind spectrum incentive auction attracted enough bids to succeed. This auction will free 84 MHz of broadcast TV airwaves for wireless broadband. To put that number in context, every 10 MHz of spectrum made available for wireless services adds an estimated $3 billion in GDP and 200,000 jobs.

When the auction was conceived in 2002 — five years before the iPhone — the supply of airwaves was already insufficient to keep up with growing consumer demand. Thanks to the government's work, the spectrum crunch no longer presents the same threat to our mobile economy.

The FCC must continue to unleash more airwaves for broadband and 5G networks, but it must also grapple with other emerging threats to the wireless economy. In my view, these are the biggest issues:

  1. Cybersecurity: The Internet of Things is projected to create $8 trillion in value over the next decade, but only if it's secure. The cyberattack that shut down major web sites in October was coordinated through a large number of IOT devices. The FCC should work with industry and federal partners to combat the cyber threat.
  2. Infrastructure: Wireless networks rely on a little more than 200,000 cell towers in the U.S. But the 5G wireless future may need millions of small cell sites. The current process for setting up towers is long and expensive. To ensure communities have the benefits of 5G, the FCC needs to cut red tape where it can to allow the plethora of antennas that will be needed quickly and at a reasonable cost.
  3. Competition: This remains the most effective tool for maximizing consumer benefits. On two separate occasions, the FCC has discouraged deals that would have shrunk the number of national carriers from four to three, and consumers have been the beneficiaries. Speculation about consolidation in the wireless industry has ramped up again. Skepticism of any future deals remains warranted.

These issues will have to be addressed to help fulfill the promise of mobile innovation to grow our economy and improve American's lives.

(Tom Wheeler has been chairman of the FCC since 2013. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.