FCC Chairman On Open Wireless: Gotcha!

    July 13, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Oh, man! He got me. He really did. I really, truly thought FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was taking the side of the good guys. Boy do I feel like a dope! What a cut-up this guy is.

Remember that shocker that Martin was proposing open access requirements in the upcoming 700MHz wireless spectrum auction? That, according to people much less gullible than I, was some quality spin.

"What Chairman Martin is proposing isn’t true open access, and it won’t create the broadband competition we need," said S. Derek Turner, research director at Free Press.

But, but…he said!

Frank Rose at Wired.com says that Martin’s new rules "include several key provisions that make it unlikely an open network would ever actually be built. For example, they are said to allow the winner to offer retail service only. That might force the auction winner to open its network to unapproved devices, but it wouldn’t actually force competition. So we’d end up with something like wireline broadband today: Users could hook up any device they wanted to, but they’d still be limited to only a couple of service providers."

So what happened?

"Aware of how closely watched this proceeding has become, Martin has opened his push for rules with a controlled PR offensive," writes Howard Feld. "Most notably, he has sought to create confusion for the public interest community and Silicon Valley folks by changing the definition of the word ‘open access.’

"It helps that Martin has been more successful than any other Chairman I can recall in stopping leaks at the FCC — usually by transferring the offending parties to the FCC equivalent of outer Siberia as a warning to others. This has given Martin an unparalleled opportunity to control the information flow and the public debate through strategic press leaks and interviews."

Oh, that’s just dirty.

Luckily, there’s still good guys working on this. Free Press, the organization behind SaveTheInternet.com, launched a new initiative called FreetheiPhone.org, which aims to ensure competition and freedom in the wireless space.

"This issue goes well beyond the iPhone. It’s about a dysfunctional wireless system that stifles innovation and competition across the country," said Timothy Karr, Free Press campaign director. "We need real open access, which opens networks for innovation and wholesale markets for competition. Until we have this, the iPhone — and other innovative gadgets like it — will never reach full potential."

Free Press’s Ben Scott explains more about this at YouTube.