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June 15, 2007

Senate Hearing on 700 MHz Spectrum Sale

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing yesterday over the proposed sale of the 700MHz Spectrum.  This is the spectrum that will be vacated by broadcasters once the switch to digital television takes place in February, 2009.  Part of the spectrum allocation is for public safety use.  The idea is to create a national broadband network that unifies the various networks that fire, police, and other first responders use.  It sounds like a nice idea but the implementation and cost are problematic, at least according to the various witnesses.

On one side is James Barksdale, former Netscape guy back when that company was eating Microsoft's lunch in the browser war (though we all know how that turned out).  He represented Frontline Wireless, who has two former FCC Chairs associated with the company.  Frontline wants to build a commercial network with part of the spectrum that would merge with a part that is dedicated to public safety.  The commercial network would pay for the public side and prioritize public traffic so that no bottleneck would develop during emergencies.  Barksdale advocates coverage for 99% of the United States in the Frontline proposal, network neutrality, and open access principles.

Shudders to that says Verizon.  Open access and net neutrality would only make the bids low because of the conditions it would impose on telecoms.  Lack of flexibility makes the property less valuable.  That means the government would get less for the Treasury.  As Verizon and its competitors (really, only AT&T) see it, a network that allows any device connected would degrade the user experience.

The City of New York weighed in saying that a one-size national network wouldn't necessarily work.  The City just bought spectrum through commercial carriers (with little or no help from the federal government, they pointedly added) to give the same capability.  They saw opportunities for regional networks.  What works in New York doesn't always work in Los Angeles, Boise, or Buffalo (the City's analogy). 

The news on the hearing is in PC World.  The hearing link is here, with links to the witness' statements.

June 15, 2007 | Permalink

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