Network Neutrality Does Wireless

The issue of network neutrality is now a hot topic in view of the upcoming spectrum auction by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is required to sell airwaves vacated by broadcasters as a result of the digital television transition, mainly to wireless broadband carriers, by the end of 2007. It is due to announce the rules for the auction in the coming weeks.

The worry of many incumbent telephone and cable broadband providers is that the FCC will impose network-neutrality mandates on the spectrum auction. At the June 14 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, Verizon Wireless’ executive vice president and CTO Richard J. Lynch called on the agency to “set auction rules that allow for full and fair competition by qualified bidders, without artificial and unwarranted constraints.” According to Lynch, “such discriminatory eligibility restrictions are aimed at the companies most ready to deploy next-generation broadband networks.”

Michael Small, CEO of New Jersey-based Centennial Communications and a member of the executive board of CTIA, saw “no economic basis to impose open access or other intrusive forms of regulatory intervention on the wireless industry.” He believes “the auction should proceed with few, if any, encumbrances, and the market should determine which business plans and competitors will prevail.”

Meanwhile, Amol Sarva, one of Virgin Mobile’s founders, hopes the FCC will reserve an “open access” block of spectrum to allow for “innovation at Internet speed.” Sarva is not against incumbents getting large chunks of spectrum so long as bidders with other ideas on how to use the airwaves will still get some.
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