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Commissioner McDowell Remarks at 2013 Broadband Summit

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Released: February 7, 2013

REMARKS OF

THE HONORABLE ROBERT M. MCDOWELL

COMMISSIONER

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

FEBRUARY 7, 2012

2013 Broadband Summit

Broadband Adoption and Usage - What Have We Learned?

Sponsored by the Federal - State Joint Conference
on Advanced Services with NTIA
[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
Many thanks to my good friend, Commissioner Clyburn, for her hard work as chair of the
various joint boards. Your leadership for over three years is impressive and is very much
appreciated. Thank you also to Commissioner Clyburn’s legal advisor, Angie Kronenberg, for
her tireless joint board work. Her diligence, intelligence, and commitment have served all of us
well.
And, congratulations to my other distinguished friend and colleauge, Commissioner
Rosenworcel, for her new appointment as chair of all of these boards. You have very big shoes
to fill, and I wish you all the best. I am confident that you will be highly successful, and I look
forward to working with you.
Increasing our nation’s broadband adoption rate and usage is a worthy and noble
endeavor which can, does, and will improve the everyday lives of many, and I hope eventually
all Americans. While over two-thirds of Americans currently subscribe to a broadband service,
recent studies have also shown that America is moving in the right direction when it comes to
finding ways to encourage broadband adoption. In fact, if we had asked ourselves in 2006, when
I joined the Commission, which demographic groups would be among the early adopters of
wireless broadband technologies, we probably would have guessed incorrectly. It ends up that
school kids, the less well-off and minorities are leading the nation, and the world, in wireless
broadband adoption. This encouraging progress is due largely to unfettered market forces.
While government can play a role, that role should be to ensure it does not get in the way of
these exciting developments.
Additionally, it is imperative that we look at the whole picture when we analyze our
broadband adoption success. First, we should avoid simply focusing on whether individuals are
broadband subscribers to a wireline service. Consumer broadband use goes well beyond cable
modem and DSL connections. Increased use of wireless broadband is equally important in our
country. To put this in perspective, between mid-year 2011 and mid-year 2012, the number of
smartphones that were active on carriers’ networks increased by 36.5% for a total of 130.8

million.1 Also, during that same time period, the number of wireless-enabled tablets, laptops,
netbooks and wireless broadband modems that were active on carriers’ networks increased by
42%.2 Second, and equally as pertinent, subscribership numbers do not take into account “non-
subscribers” who are nevertheless active broadband users through the power of unlicensed
services, such as Wi-Fi.
As we continue to analyze how to increase broadband use – across all sectors – we must
continue to look to the private sector. Its leadership has been vital to America’s deployment and
adoption success, as will be discussed during the next panel. Through various initiatives, private
risk capital has been invested diligently to increase adoption, especially for our school children,
our low income communities and hard to reach places on tribal and Alaska Native lands. Thank
you for your creative spirit, and I look forward to hearing what success stories can be replicated
throughout our great nation.

1 CTIA’s Mid-Year 2012 Semi-Annual Wireless Survey at 10 (rel. Nov. 2012).
2 Id.
2

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