I had the opportunity to attend an interesting panel discussion at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioner’s Conference (NARUC) in Portland, Oregon last week. The topic addressed the question, what’s the vision of telecommunications in 2020?
One message that was loud and clear from panelist Joel Lubin of AT&T: we are moving to an all-broadband world for our telecommunications, and as a result, more spectrum is needed. Other panelists also had spectrum front and center on their minds. Google’s policy counsel Patrick Ryan said that wireless spectrum reform will dominate in the next several years.
Lubin doesn’t want regulation to impede innovation — an important point– and stressed that it’s important to keep it all simple. Massachusetts State Commissioner Why defended basic consumer protections, including services such as E911. It was an interesting discussion on some important issues that I’m sure we will continue to hear about as we look forward to the future of telecommunications services.
One general session that I found most interesting brought two industries together — electricity and wireless — to discuss how they work together to operate the smart grid. The panel reviewed some of the similarities and differences in the two industries, and then how they work together to bring the benefits of smart grid technology to consumers: energy efficiencies, reliability, customer home energy management, etc.
And wouldn’t you know it? Even in this session, concerns about the looming spectrum crunch were raised. With wireless technologies an important element of the smart grid, it is important that there be adequate spectrum for utility use. While we know that the increasing growth in mobile data usage and demand by consumers is leading to the need for more spectrum, it was interesting to think of yet another need for more spectrum: to power-up the smart grid.