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Fred Campbell points out flaw in FCC “pick winners” strategy

If the Federal Communications Commission is really interested in ensuring the deployment of broadband, its broadcast spectrum policy of allowing Sprint and T-Mobile to get more low band spectrum in hopes of getting broadband rolled out to rural customers may be dead on arrival.  That’s my takeaway from a blog post by Fred Campbell of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology.

Mr. Campbell highlights Sprint and T-Mobile’s earlier conclusions that deploying mobile rural broadband is an expensive proposition.  having spectrum is one thing.  Building the actual infrastructure is another.  Deployment is still about the bottom line and building towers and laying cabling over less densely populated areas relative to urban areas is still not cost effective.  Quoting Mr. Campbell:

“As a result, Sprint and T-Mobile have chosen to rely primarily on roaming agreements to provide service in rural areas, because it is cheaper than building their own networks. The most notorious example is Sprint, who actually reduced its rural coverage to cut costs after the FCC eliminated the spectrum exemption to the automatic roaming right. This decision was not driven by Sprint’s lack of access to low frequency spectrum — Sprint has held low frequency spectrum on a nationwide basis for years.”

I would go one step further.  By taking away from AT&T and Verizon the opportunity to get more lower frequency spectrum and shifting it to Sprint and T-Mobile, broadband deployment suffers a double whammy.  Not only will rural customers not see additional mobile broadband deployment from Sprint and T-Mobile, rural and urban consumers won’t see additional broadband deployment by AT&T and Verizon either.  All this picking and choosing does is erode AT&T and Verizon’s ability to grab a little more market share while serving their current customers and adding new urban and rural consumers.

This is not how you enhance a competitive environment in wireless.


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FCC’s broadband policy: “Miami Vice” surrealism vs. “Southland” gritty reality

Today the American Enterprise Institute held a forum on capital and broadband deployment. Among the takeaways from the panel discussions were the need for agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission to make decisions that would help grow the economy; that regulations, particularly any policies promoting unbundling, would only constrain investment; that government should stop subsidizing private companies that serve areas where competition exists; and that the Internet has thrived without regulation.

In all the arguments drove home the point that the FCC is conflicted with social policy cognitive dissonance. The FCC utters a preference for market place competition for broadband services and light touch regulation for the Internet along with a host of consumer protections, but its actions cause a drag on the market for services, negatively impacting consumer welfare by failing to allow broadband carriers a full transition to Internet protocol services, even in the face of consumer demand for advanced broadband services.

Its contemplation of capping access by AT&T and Verizon to the reverse auction for broadcast spectrum is another example of cognitive dissonance, claiming a market-based method for reallocating spectrum while considering keeping two efficient players out of the market for spectrum; two players serving a majority of broadband consumers, who, if the Department of Justice had its way, would risk reduced quality of wireless broadband access.

As Steve Pociask and Barry Umansky argued in a recent article for The Hill, the FCC can’t have it both ways. We can’t tout the proliferation of wireless devices, app development, and IP technology while asking broadband providers to continue maintaining a legacy network. It is like comparing the 1980s surrealism of “Miami Vice” with the gritty reality of “Southland”.

It’s time for us to move into the 21st century.

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FCC Issues Channel Sharing Rules

The Federal Communications Commission issued final rules for channel sharing. The rules are the result of the recently passed Jobs Act that provides for voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum.

The FCC stressed that channel sharing is voluntary and that broadcasters and other licensees of spectrum will determine whether they want to enter into sharing arrangements. The FCC expects channel sharing to free up spectrum for wireless broadband providers.

Channel sharing doesn’t mean that an over-the-air broadcaster’s only option is to give up its entire spectrum and go out of business. Broadcasters should be able to retain just enough spectrum for one standard definition program stream, while sharing the rest of its 6MHz channel.

Overall, sounds like a non-intrusive policy for freeing up some spectrum for the mobile types while keeping the over-the-air broadcasters operational.

Is broadcast thinking about the consumer

Posted April 14th, 2011 in FCC, Government Regulation, spectrum, voluntary incentive auction and tagged , by Alton Drew

Interesting article on TVNews Check. It shares the insights of Post-Newsweek president Alan Frank on the FCC’s proposed voluntary incentive auction. Mr. Frank describes the auction as “Leno in prime time.”

Not once have I heard NAB make reference to consumer benefits from wireless companies obtaining more spectrum. Broadcasters, because of the Internet, have options for distributing their programming. Consumers cannot use broadcast TV to access the Internet or make phone calls.

The increasing demand for these services plus the increase in time spent on line versus decrease in time spent watching broadcast television should be enough evidence that a reallocation of spectrum is needed.