the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Applauds Congressional Hearings on Spectrum

NCIL applauds the recent Congressional efforts to address the nation’s pressing spectrum needs. With yesterday’s two hearings, “Removing Barriers to Wireless Broadband Deployment” and “Improving Federal Spectrum Systems” our nation’s leaders took one step closer towards finding a beneficial solution to meet the growing demand for faster, more efficient wireless networks.

These hearings could not have occurred at a better time as recent studies (PDF) indicate that wireless usage is growing off the charts. According to wireless industry group CTIA, the number of active smartphones in the U.S. increased from 50 million in 2009 to over 200 million in 2014. In this same timeframe, average monthly traffic skyrocketed from only 76 MB/month in 2009 to over 1.8 GB/month. With this rapid increase in mobile devices and data consumption, our wireless spectrum is on a one way path to permanent bottleneck. This means unresponsive networks moving at terribly slow speeds.

NCIL believes that in our growing mobile society, the best way to ensure our communities keep pace is to increase the amount of spectrum available.

Just last month, the Wireless RERC’s research team announced their Survey of User Needs (SUN) for Wireless Technologies to measure accessible mobile use. As the only national source of comprehensive information and insight into the wireless technology needs of people with disabilities, SUN data is used by all of the wireless decision makers – wireless industry, regulatory agencies, advocacy organizations and other researchers – to inform much needed policy changes in areas just like this.

Data gathered from this survey will only increase the calls for more spectrum.

Increasing the amount of spectrum available for commercial and unlicensed use will have profound benefits for people with disabilities and the entire Independent Living Movement. More spectrum means faster connectivity with health monitoring, increased availability to accessible smartphones, and rapid growth potential for practical applications like telemedicine. Spectrum has the ability to empower those across the country looking to tap into the burgeoning “Internet of Things” as well. With increased wireless connectivity, those with disabilities will be able to take part in the move to automated household appliances and tech wearables.

People with disabilities across the nation benefit significantly from access to robust wireless networks. NCIL thanks Congress for holding yesterday’s hearings and encourages the reallocation of spectrum for commercial and innovative use so people with disabilities can live, work, and connect like never before.