The Corner

A Job-Creating No-Brainer

Higher taxes, net neutrality rules, a looming credit crisis, and billions in new regulatory costs. There are lots of bad ideas for jobs and growth floating around. Washington continues to send a message to businesses, and to the world, that job creation has been brushed aside on the policy desk.

Fortunately, Congress and the administration ostensibly see eye-to-eye on the dire need to expand wireless spectrum; the problem is simple bureaucratic inertia.

One of the bright spots in President’s Obama’s budget was a goal to free up more than 500 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum. Regrettably, companies can’t just pick this spectrum out of the sky, start building out their infrastructure, and provide customers with the ability to stream Harry Potter movies.

The federal government owns much of this needed bandwidth, and 61 percent of the most “usable” spectrum, between 174 MHz and 4 GHz. This is no longer acceptable public policy and, with 9.2 percent unemployment, it’s inexcusable to make an entire industry wait on the sidelines with unused business capacity.

If the administration and the FCC put the entire usable spectrum up for grabs tomorrow, it would be gone in a heartbeat, and with it would come billions in increased investment and thousands of new jobs. U.S. mobile traffic is projected to grow 21-fold by 2015, but this can’t happen while the FCC sits on its hands and frets over net neutrality.

Want an easy way to create jobs in a jobless recovery? Free up spectrum. That means I can stream Steelers games and tens of thousands more will be directly employed as a result.

To give an example, in the last ten years, employment for direct carriers in the telecom world has increased by roughly 66,000 employees, or 26 percent. And that was a period largely without smart phones, tablets, and streaming video. Imagine what the next ten years could look like if the federal government does what it says must be done: start selling and reallocating spectrum.

It doesn’t take a background in macroeconomics to understand the sober realities of the current economy. The housing market will likely continue to see corrections for the remainder of 2011; job growth will not explode over the foreseeable future; and a grand bargains to address the major drivers of federal debt seems unlikely.

It also doesn’t take a tech wizard to see a glimpse of our telecom future. A mobile world rich in platforms like tablets, smart phones, and cloud computing. None of this can operate efficiently and provide the necessary surge in job creation unless Washington pulls the trigger on spectrum.

We might need to eat our peas on fiscal austerity, but when it comes to better mobile service and stronger job growth, we should all be eating cake. 

 Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum. His Twitter handle is @djheakin.


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