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The FCC and spectrum management after the election

Posted November 5th, 2012 in Election 2012, FCC, Government Regulation, spectrum and tagged , , by Alton Drew

The following is an excerpt from an article written by me and published in With the presidential elections only nine hours away, I shared a little forecast on where the Federal Communications Commission may go on the issue of spectrum management.

Nine hours before the election and possibly a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the issue of how best the FCC provides access to the airwaves by wireless communications companies may be approached differently depending on which party takes control of the FCC. Two commission members, Mignon Clyburn and Ajit Pai, are placing themselves in the thick of spectrum issues and their articulations on the issue of spectrum management reflect their divergent positions on the issue.

Specifically, although Ms. Clyburn would like to see the FCC ensure that spectrum is put to its highest and best use, she would like to see regulation act as the mechanism of distribution. “Regulations must adopt spectrum policies that encourage this process”, according to Ms. Clyburn. Clearing and reallocating spectrum may not be enough under the Clyburn school of thought. The FCC may have to implement policies addressing the structure of the economy, including the promotion of competition; encouraging investment; and deploying infrastructure.

Mr. Pai takes the overall view that today’s telecommunications industry should not be subject to the 20th century framework reflected in the current Communications Act. He wants to remove the uncertainty that eliminates the incentive of businesses to take on risk.

Unlike Ms. Clyburn, Mr. Pai places a greater emphasis on spectrum clearing versus spectrum sharing. Spectrum clearing sees a spectrum license holder, i.e. a television station, giving up all of its use of a frequency band so that another provider, i.e. a wireless telecommunications company, can exclusively use the band. Spectrum sharing occurs whenever multiple wireless systems operate in the same frequency band. Mr. Pai believes that spectrum clearing encourages more competition during the auctioning for licenses and that wireless carriers will have an incentive to invest more in infrastructure.

From a market perspective, Ms. Clyburn’s approach is intrusive relative to Mr. Pai’s approach. There is a difference between ensuring that spectrum is being put to its best use versus getting spectrum into the hands of carriers who value it the most.

Ensuring that spectrum is being put to its best use means that government will continue to influence the business judgment of a carrier beyond granting the carrier access to the airwaves. This approach would keep the cloud of regulatory uncertainty hanging over the heads of carriers who would remain in a near perpetual state determining whether their decisions on investment and infrastructure deployment pass the FCC’s test for best use.

On the other hand, getting spectrum into the hands of carriers that value the resource the most is not only less intrusive but measurable. The FCC can identify the carriers that value spectrum the most primarily by observing the bids carriers make and noting the premium that carriers are including in those bids. The lighter touch regulatory approach advocated by Mr. Pai should mitigate concerns about regulatory uncertainty held by wireless carriers.

Given the current makeup of the FCC, with three Democratic commissioners and two Republicans, the intrusive approach as espoused by Ms, Clyburn is prevailing. Which school of thought prevails between 2013 and 2017 all depends on what happens at the ballot box on November 6.

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Comparing Romney to Obama on potential broadband policy

Posted September 20th, 2012 in Broadband, Election 2012, FCC, Government Regulation, Mitt Romney, net neutrality, Obama and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

Last week the Innovation Technology and Information Foundation released a report comparing the expected policies and platforms of President Barack Obama, Governor Mitt Romney, and the Republican and Democratic parties in a number of areas including broadband, special access, and spectrum. Here is a summation of the findings in the report.

On broadband, specifically a digital infrastructure, President Obama has promoted a robust wireless and wireline broadband infrastructure capable of supporting an enhanced electrical grid, health care, and education. The Romney campaign has not articulated a position on the nation’s digital infrastructure.

The Obama Administration would like to see high-speed wireless capability within reach of 98% of Americans. The Romney campaign has not taken a position on expanding high-speed wireless access, but current FCC members agree with Democrats on the issue of modernizing the Universal Service Fund mechanism to support access to broadband.

In the area of special access, the Democratic majority on the FCC supports suspending deregulation of special access, while Republicans want to see deregulation continued.

Republicans and Democrats agree that the USF should be modernized so that rural and underserved households receive greater access to broadband services.

Republicans are opposed to the FCC’s net neutrality rules that were imposed in December 2010. Democrats, including the President, have been steadfast about removing the rules. While Democrats would like to see net neutrality rules not applied to wireless services, Republicans want the same forbearance for both broadband wireline and wireless services.

Can we really say we see any surprises?

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Ooops. I hope I’m not stirring up a liberal uprising

We are in the middle of the silly season and social networking sites will be abuzz this week as the Democratic Party kicks off its national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a good time to have a broadband connection as the activity on Twitter showed last week during the Republican Party’s convention in Tampa, Florida. Whether you support the GOP or not, if you are an avid political geek as yours truly, you were definitely getting in your two cents on how well the Republicans were making their case for whether they should be allowed four years in the White House.

Pew Research recently released an assessment of how all this tweeting and Facebook posting is impacting political discourse in America. Overall, the report found that postings to social networking sites are having some impact on political views, especially among people who identify themselves as Democrats or liberals. According to Pew Research, 24% of liberal social network site users and 18% of moderate social network site users said that use of social network sites have prompted them to change their political views. Only 11% of conservatives who use social network sites are prompted to change their views as a result of interacting online.

In addition, 25% of social network users have become more active as a result of using social network sites. Sixteen percent of social network site users have changed their political views as a result of interacting on the sites. Nine percent of social network site users took the opposite turn and became less engaged with political discussion as a result of postings online.

Oh well. Happy tweeting and see you tonight online at least.

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Mittens is not a Social Media Shot Caller, Baller Like POTUS. Not Yet Anyway.

Seems like presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Willard M. Romney has a ways to go to catch up with incumbent Barack H. Obama in terms of a social media presence, according to Mr. Romney allegedly has 251,000 followers on the micro-blog platform, Twitter. On the social networking behemoth, Facebook, Mr. Romney has 1.6 million “friends”.

Mr. Obama is doing better on both platforms. Mr. Obama has allegedly 14.6 million disciples on Twitter while his Facebook acquaintances number approximately 26 million.

It’s not surprising that Mr. Obama would have a commanding lead in the social media world. He has shown his preference for connectivity via technology ever since entering the White House and making arrangements for a special Blackberry that would allow him to stay connected while keeping people with ill will at bay.

Also given Mr. Obama’s relative youth and being a member of a minority demographic that makes disproportionate use of cellphones and Twitter, not only should we find Mr. Obama to be a proponent of social media use, but we should also expect him to exploit it to its fullest.

It’s not to say that Mittens can’t catch up. At this juncture it’s about how you leverage those social media resources versus how many Twitter followers are making you feel like Jesus.

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Is CISPA another Political Football for the Silly Season?

I’m uncomfortable with granting security clearances for national security information to civilians in the private sector. Under the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2012, it appears that individuals employed with private companies or other private entities may get clearances as part of the act of exchanging information between the federal government and the private sector.

Its one thing if a cyber threat is detected by a private entity first and they pass that information on to the feds. They’ve already seen it; it was probably an attack on the private entity; so naturally they are familiar with the contents of the attack.

If it’s the other way around, then the government should not share anything outside of information specific to a private entity that may have additional information or is a target of an attack.
The problem here is that the White House and the Congress did not work together on this. If the Congress felt this additional national security protection was needed, why not work with the branch that would be responsible for carrying out national security.

I hate being cynical, but why pass a bill with privacy flaws unless the GOP is trying to create another political football for the summer and fall for the parties to kick around.

The two-party silly season is upon us…