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Black Friday Now Featuring Mobile Madness

Increasing access to wireless broadband can help U.S. entrepreneurs drive innovation and competition, particularly as retailers are beginning to make some Black Friday bargains available exclusively on mobile devices.

Internet users learned several years ago that they could enjoy great savings at their favorite stores without having to endure the madness of Black Friday – the traditional beginning of holiday shopping – by waiting until Cyber Monday, online retailers’ response to Black Friday. Last year online sales on Cyber Monday exceeded $1 billion for the first time, a 16 percent increase from the previous year, according to comScore. Thanks to the Internet, consumers can take advantage of Cyber Monday bargains from the comfort of home, as opposed to rising before dawn and battling the long lines at their local retail outlets. 

Just as traditional brick-and-mortar storefront shopping has been augmented, and sometimes replaced, by computer-based e-commerce, a new phenomenon has surfaced this holiday shopping season: mobile e-commerce—Black Friday bargains made available exclusively on mobile devices.  These deals will not be available to Internet shoppers over their wired connections but will be available to people on the move—including those stuck in line at stores and malls throughout the country Friday.  

Mobile e-commerce is another example of how increasing access to wireless broadband can help U.S. entrepreneurs drive innovation and competition, and spur the development of new applications that bring value and convenience to American consumers. It’s a trend that has already begun to make an impact: In October – well before this week’s promotions -- almost 10 percent of online retail sales were made by consumers using mobile devices, according to IBM Coremetrics.

In order to unleash the power of innovation through mobile broadband, President Obama last year directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to work with the FCC to identify at least 500 MHz of spectrum that could be re-purposed for mobile broadband use within 10 years, almost doubling the amount currently available to U.S. companies.  NTIA has already identified 115 MHz that can be made available within five years, and continues the hard work of finding even more bandwidth that can be re-purposed for wireless broadband.

More recently the President delivered a legislative package to Congress that, if enacted, would authorize the FCC to conduct incentive auctions as a way of encouraging existing spectrum holders to allow their spectrum to be reallocated for mobile broadband, on either a licensed or unlicensed basis. The President’s proposal would also make it easier for Federal agencies to release some of their spectrum holdings while still protecting their ability to carry out their missions. Auctions would also help fund a nationwide interoperable wireless network for first responders and support critical research and development in spectrum-related technologies, with billions of dollars left over to reduce the deficit. 

The President’s plan incorporates ideas proposed by Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison that received bipartisan support from the Senate Commerce Committee last May. We are also encouraged by the work of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and we support the goal of enacting final legislation by the end of the year as called for by Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

So you know what’s at the top of my wish list this season? Bipartisan legislation that frees up spectrum to drive innovation in the wireless broadband world, creates jobs, gives our public safety agencies the tools they need to protect us, and reduces the deficit. If Congress could pass this bill now and present it to the President for his signature before the holiday season ends, the real gift would be for the American consumer.