LAS VEGAS -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro used their annual public conversation at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Wednesday (Jan.9) to ponder how wireless technology is promoting technology innovation.
In the first minutes of the hour-long one-on-one, Genachowski emphasized re-allocating broadband spectrum as "important to our innovation future."
Since the recent passage of legislation authorizing a new round of auctions, which incentivize proprietors of unused spectrum to give them up for re-use by bidders in need of more spectrum, Genachowski (right) and his FCC staff have been working on ways to divvy up the airwaves. "There's definitely a Wi-Fi traffic jam," said the FCC chief. "We're working to free up a substantial amount of space, to relieve Wi-Fi congestion, especially at conferences, in airports."
Among other areas where new unlicensed blocks of spectrum are needed, said Genachowski, include "mobile body area" technology for medical use, allowing hospitals to monitor patients’ condition without a tangle of wires and electrodes. He was enthusiastic about a pilot program using this technology in North Dakota that "improved patient outcomes and lowered costs" over the studied period by $1 million, and a similar New York trial that could save as much as $10 million.
Ironically, Genachowski's introduction of medical issues was interrupted by that rarest of attendees at CES, a protester. While Shapiro responded to the intrusion with assurances that the First Amendment is alive and well at CES, the irrepressible heckler was dragged from the room, shouting, "There are no safety guidelines... You're not protecting children. You're not protecting the elderly. There are people getting sick. You're giving people cancer, and you know it. And you're not doing anything about it."
Shapiro hastened to restore calm by anointing Genachowski as a "ninja innovator" for his efforts to free up spectrum and expand access in the U.S. to high-speed broadband services. Genachowski replied that this is a high priority for the FCC. "The whole world is watching," he said. "We don't want to fall behind. We're in a global bandwidth race and we can't afford to slow down."