Kerry Urges FCC To Open Up Spectrum Auction
Former Presidential candidate and Massachusetts senator John Kerry weighed in on the upcoming 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction, asking the Federal Communications Commission not to close off bidding to incumbent telecommunication and cable companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.
In a letter to FCC Chair Kevin Martin, Kerry echoed Google and the SaveTheInternet.com coalition’s objection to a closed bidding system for the slice of spectrum, arguing that doing so would limit broadband Internet access as well as competition.
This latest skirmish between SaveTheInternet and the telecom and cable industries is part of a larger battle for Network Neutrality, a movement to block phone and cable companies from manipulating Internet – wired or wireless – activity the way they do with telephone and cable lines.
The 700 MHz spectrum is considered ideal for wireless broadband access and is capable of penetrating walls, much like television and radio signals. Divided appropriately, the spectrum could open up broadband competition by offering another channel by which Internet access could be provided.
Kerry began his letter by reminding the FCC just where the US stands in the world in broadband penetration.
"The US is lagging behind much of the world in broadband penetration. Nearly 60% of the country does not subscribe to broadband service – in large measure because it is either unavailable or unaffordable."
Kerry and others believe that if chunks of spectrum are reserved for non-incumbent interests, and not for the highest bidder (the assumption here is that few are able or willing to outbid AT&T and the like), then doors will be open for broader competition in Internet access and reduce the price of connecting.
In the letter, Kerry complains that alternatives to DSL and cable modem technologies, which are the only options available in 96% of the US market, have not materialized as free-market advocates have promised over the past decade.
"It has not yet materialized, and today Americans pay as much as ten times more than broadband consumers in Asia and Europe. Worse still, competition has been insufficient to drive the innovation that brings faster speeds, next generation applications, and a richer, diverse and multifaceted Internet."
Though he admits expanding wireless broadband "may not be a silver bullet," Kerry believes it is a step in the right direction. He also mentions that part of the 700 MHz spectrum could be used to build a national emergency frequency.
But one of the biggest fears is that those in the telecommunications industry will buy up the spectrum with the intention of preventing others from buying it.
"This spectrum should not sit dormant in the hands of winning bidders," said Kerry. "We cannot allow this spectrum to be hoarded by large companies who don’t intend to use it."