Today I’m appearing before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to discuss the importance of a balanced national spectrum policy that promotes both licensed and unlicensed technologies. I’ll explain how unlicensed services like Wi-Fi are critical platforms for innovation, investment, and economic growth.
In my ten years at Comcast, I have seen many changes in the broadband marketplace. The availability of faster speeds and powerful devices is bringing Americans amazing online experiences unimaginable just a few years ago. Consumer demand for data services continues to grow, both at home and on the go. Wi-Fi has played a key role in meeting that growing demand for mobility and portability. At Comcast, we believe that our nation’s spectrum policy must accommodate Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses of spectrum.
We’ve supplemented our in-home Wi-Fi experience by deploying a network of tens of thousands of Xfinity WiFi access points throughout our footprint, accessible at no additional charge to qualified customers via any Wi-Fi-enabled device. And we’re partnering with other cable companies to build one of the country’s largest networks of Wi-Fi access points, which already includes more than 150,000 Wi-Fi access points around the country. This investment in Wi-Fi allows us to extend our existing network in ways that make it more flexible, more interoperable, and more convenient for our customers.
Wi-Fi is now an integral part of daily life – relied on by consumers and businesses for cost-effective and robust wireless Internet access. Wi-Fi also helps to relieve traffic congestion on traditional wireless networks. In fact, a significant amount of wireless data already travels over Wi-Fi at some point, and the CEO of Cisco recently stated that Wi-Fi "will eventually carry 80 to 90 percent of the growth of cellular networks."
The importance of provisioning spectrum for Wi-Fi was reinforced by several recent events. In the aftermath of the attacks at the Boston Marathon, commercial mobile wireless networks were at times overloaded or otherwise unavailable. To help, Comcast and other providers opened their Wi-Fi networks to anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device, facilitating communications between people at the scene and their loved ones.
Demand for Wi-Fi will continue to grow, so more spectrum needs to be made available. As we explained in a recent FCC filing, there currently is not enough spectrum allocated to handle projected growth. The next generation of Wi-Fi – which can potentially handle speeds in excess of 1 Gbps – requires wide spectrum channels that are not available in the United States today. To get the maximum economic and social benefits from Wi-Fi, we’ll ask the FCC to allocate more spectrum for unlicensed use and to revise certain rules that unnecessarily restrict the use of existing spectrum. We believe this can be done in a balanced and workable way. Comcast wants to work with Congress, the Administration, the FCC, and other stakeholders to adopt sensible spectrum policies that will give Americans the full benefits of both licensed and unlicensed uses, including the incredibly exciting potential of next-gen Wi-Fi.