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FCC Issues Spectrum Auction Rules

July 31, 2007

The Associated Press reports that the Federal Communications Commission approved rules earlier today that are intended to boost consumer choices in cell phones and services after a $15 billion airwaves auction is held next year.

Central in today's FCC decision was an open access" provision, that will let  customers use whatever phone and software they want on what is estimated to be one-third of the network spectrum to be auctioned.

A more rigorous proposal that would require licensees to sell access to the network on a wholesale basis was not approved. Analysts believe thislack of approval for this provision will make it unlikely that Google will be one of the spectrum bidders.

Although some are pleasantly surprised that "open access" was approved by the FCC, not everyone is pleased with this decision. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I received a statement from

Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott issued the following statement:

"This decision represents a small step forward for consumer choice in mobile phones, but a large step back for genuine broadband competition that could bring the benefits of the Internet to all Americans. Unlocking devices on a small slice of the public airwaves is valuable for increasing consumer choice -- but only if the rules are properly enforced and the rest of the wireless world follows suit.

"And we should be clear -- this step does nothing to address the failing broadband marketplace that has left too many Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide. The FCC's failure to place a wholesale condition on licenses in this auction means the chance for truly robust wireless broadband competition has been squandered. History will record today as an opportunity lost.

"The mythology of Washington power politics has painted this spectrum auction as a battle between corporate giants AT&T, Verizon and Google -- ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Americans who urged the FCC to open the airwaves, not just to devices, but to real competition. We're very disappointed that the FCC didn't listen to the public and seize this last, best opportunity to use the public airwaves to bring a true, third competitor to challenge DSL and cable modem's domination of the broadband market.

"Moving forward, the FCC must ensure that the provisions unlocking devices are enforced. It is now up to Congress to contend with the real problem of broadband competition. Until Congress remedies the FCC's failure and enacts a new national broadband policy, the United States will squander billions in potential economic gain and continue its free-fall in the world broadband rankings. We cannot afford to continue, nor long sustain, the path we are on."

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