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Page 462 54 Recognizing What the NII is, What it Needs, and How to Get it Robert F. Roche Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Statement of the Problem The national information infrastructure (NII) offers to strengthen the U.S. economy and promote social and educational development, but those contributions depend on its deployment. In turn, the ability of wireless providers to deploy the facilities necessary to provide the wireless component of the NII depends on the government's recognizingat all levelsthat restrictions on deployment also restrict these benefits. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) has urged policymakers to adopt policies that will promote deployment of the NII. These policies include (1) an Executive Order from the President directing federal agencies to make available federal lands and sites for telecommunications facilities; (2) an affirmation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the primacy of the national technical standards applying to radio frequency (RF) emissions over local standars; and (3) an affirmation by the FCC of the primacy of national telecommunications policy over local policies that are hostile to competition. Summary Wireless telecommunications is making great contributions to the deployment of the NII. It has already met the mobile needs of over 25 million consumers in the United States. Wireless services are meeting the need for wireless in-building services as well, and their potential is phenomenal. For example, the ability of our schools to offer students a rich experience and access to a broader information base often runs up against the fact that most schools are not currently wired for telecommunications and computing, and that wiring these schools may pose the risk of exposure to asbestos or the expense of extensive renovation and removal operations. Wireless telecommunications and computing offer, in these cases, more cost-effective and efficient alternatives to wired systems 1. Wireless telecommunications is successful because it flourishes in an environment of competition in lieu of government regulation. This wireless paradigm has resulted in more than 200,000 new jobs over the past 10 years, and almost $19 billion in private-sector investment 2. In spite of these gains, and the promise of as many as 1 million new jobs and another $50 billion in investment over the next 10 years, there are impediments to total success 3. Wireless service is dependent on the deployment of antenna facilitiescell sitesand the ability of wireless companies to deploy the facilities for new systems, greater capacity, and broader coverage is at risk. Some local jurisdictions are preventing the deployment of antennas, either through outright bans, extensive delays, or application of unscientific "local technical standards" to radio frequency emissions. CTIA has called for action to redress these problems and to permit wireless to assume its full effective and efficient role in the NII. Background Much of the discussion of the NII has focused on wired technologiespredominantly fiber opticsas the core of the NII. That focus fails to recognize that wireless technologies already make up a significant part of the
Page 463 national telecommunications network. Wireless already reaches across the United States, with hundreds of wireless companies competing to offer voice and data services, innovative applications, and value to millions of consumers. These hundreds of wireless service providers have been developing, funding, and deploying a wireless NII for over 10 years, since the first cellular system began operating in October 1983. For all of that, wireless has almost been the secret success storyperhaps because it is the success of private enterprise. Over the past 12 months, there have been 19,043 references to the NII or the information superhighway in the media 4. Of those stories, only 2,139 mentioned wireless or cellular. Of course, the reality is sinking in that the NIIor the information superhighwayis and must be more than a high-fiber diet (of fiber optic cable and other hard-wired systems). The reality is that people are mobile, and mobility implies being wireless. But being fixed does not necessarily mean being wired. Indeed in many environmentsurban and ruralfixed services are better delivered by wireless technology than by wired technology. CTIA, as the industry association for wireless providersranging from cellular to enhanced specialized mobile radio (ESMR), satellite, and personal communication services (PCS)has been relentless in pressing this message. CTIA and its members also have been relentless in making it a reality. Indeed, the CTIA Foundation for Wireless Telecommunications has cosponsored and cofunded wireless education and wireless medical projects across the country (Box 1 gives two examples) 5. Increasingly, wireless is being recognized as a vital part of the NII. This forum is one example of that recognition. Last year the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Committee on Applications and Technology requestedand receivedcomment on the demand for an NII, and on the role of wireless in the NII 6. The Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on "Wireless Technologies and the NII" in August 1995. This recognition, however, is only the beginning of the battle.
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