FCC: Google Spectrum Fight Fight Fight!!!
by Matt Stoller, Tue May 22, 2007 at 06:39:53 PM EDT
There's a big fight a brewin at the FCC.
Boingboing points us to this Forbes piece by internet law expert Tim Wu on wireless broadband and spectrum. Basically, a huge chunk of incredible spectrum just came free, and it's being put up for auction by the FCC later this year. This spectrum could be used for a new nation-wide wireless broadband network, a new wireless carrier, and lots and lots of innovation that is only now happening abroad. Here's Wu:
What's needed to spur innovation is a simple requirement: that any winner of the auction respect a rule that gives consumers the right to attach any safe device (meaning it does no harm) to the wireless network that uses that spectrum. It's called the Cellular Carterfone rule, after a 1968 decision by the FCC in a case brought by a company called Carter Electronics that wanted to attach a shortwave radio to AT&T (nyse: T - news - people )'s network. That decision resulted in the creation of the standard phone jack. Applying the Carterfone rule to the next spectrum auction would ensure that our key fob designer need only look up standard technical specifications and then build and sell his device directly to the consumer. The tiny amounts of bandwidth the fob used would show up on the consumer's wireless bill.
The right to attach is a simple concept, and it has worked powerfully in other markets. For example, in the wired telephone world Carterfone rules are what made it possible to market answering machines, fax machines and the modems that sparked the Internet revolution.
This is going to be a big one. Moveon just joined in the fight with a strong campaign, and the Save the Internet Coalition is going to weigh in.
Significantly, Google is now chiming in.
Google filed a proposal on Monday with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to let companies allocate radio spectrum using the same kind of real-time auction that the search engine company now uses to sell advertisements....
We have large industry allies who want spectrum sold wholesale to consumers based on 'open access'. This means anyone can lease spectrum for any reason, which will lead to lots of wireless innovation. It will also end a key piece of the net neutrality fight, since cheap wireless broadband, though not as fast as wireline, will be a baseline competitive product to DSL and cable.
The deadline for comments at the FCC is May 30, and we're going to fill up their inbox and then some. This wireless fiasco we have in America can end, soon.