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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

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.