White spaces – recent comments

More than 25,000 comments have been filed with the FCC in the white spaces proceeding (search on 04-186 in the ECFS system on the FCC site).  Here are some recent highlights: 1.  The White Spaces Coalition ( Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, and Samsung Electro-Mechanics) is worried about 11th-hour calls to eliminate any unlicensed use of the white spaces.  The Coalition points out that the only proposal for licensed use of the white spaces is coming in the form of “fixed point to point wireless backhaul” — the…

We won’t defer when you’re wrong

When should a court defer to an agency’s interpretation of its governing statute and/or its own regulatory actions? I got interested in this question because deference by a flummoxed Supreme Court gave us Brand X, with its ahistorical “this looks really tricky so we’ll let the FCC categorize highspeed internet access” approach. In this week’s Third Circuit opinion about the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, the court doesn’t defer much. At least three times, it corrects the FCC’s reinterpretation of past regulation. 1. FCC: We gave notice of and a…

Tying, subsidizing, and IMS

In response to my post a couple of days ago about the possibility that VZ might not plan to comply with the 700 MHz “open platform” rules, someone wrote: would you have the FCC mandate that every mobile device must be capable of running every operating system? If Verizon sells me a BlackBerry, should the device allow me to install Android, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, or Symbian OS? Obviously, Google believes the answer is yes (they will make the most money if they can install their OS on every device)….

Weird boxes

With the help of one of my colleagues, I’ve been going through the history of the Computer Inquiries and all of the regulatory muttering that goes into the “information services”/”telecommunications services” dichotomy. What a strange story of subversion. We started off, back in the 60s, with a real fear of dominant telephone companies manuvering/leveraging their way into data processing businesses.  So we (basically) cordoned off data processing as a separate business and kept the telcos out. Then, about 20 years later, the telcos pointed out that they needed to use…

Google and the white spaces

The white spaces proceeding is the next big opportunity for experiments in alternative ways of providing wireless highspeed internet access. I’ve written about this here, here, here, and here. When the DTV transition happens in Feb. 2009, channels 2 through 51 will remain allocated for television transmission.  Few of the nation’s television markets actually use 49 channels.  Indeed, most use less than half of that number. :  The “white spaces” are these unused television channels, which amount to approximately 300 MHz of frequencies. According to Blair Levin, “[e]stimates vary, but most…

Why regulate cable internet access

The cable guys have their way of saying it::  “What do you want to do, nationalize our businesses?” Another way of seeing this issue is::  We have a very few very large providers of highspeed internet access in this country.  They have sufficient market power to decide how and when to prioritize internet communications.  And all of these providers are competing with the internet in some way – they are all (or are becoming) old media and old telecom companies that want to maintain control over their distribution channels.  The…

700 MHz C block reserve price met

This is big – Blair Levin’s Stifel Nicolaus report is saying that the reserve price of $4.6 billion has been met for the C Block. For the upper band C Block, the FCC mandated that any winning licensee have in place “no locking” and “no blocking” provisions conditioning its use of this spectrum: Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, except: (1)…

Follow the money

I’m on a panel next week that is nominally about virtual worlds but seems infinitely expandable, so I’m planning to talk about FCC regulation. It’s a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! kind of approach. You’ll recall that a petition was filed earlier this fall asking that the FCC require email forwarding. There was even a frisson of Congressional interest. I went back and looked at the filed comments. You may have all thought this was a pretty silly petition, but Verizon, Time Warner, AT&T, NCTA, USISPA, ITIC, and a bunch…

Newspapers, washing machines, and the internet

An NPR story yesterday captured some pungent words from soon-to-go-through-the-revolving-door Senator Trent Lott. He was commenting in disbelief about the FCC move to permit more consolidation of media companies. He said (paraphrasing): Newspapers? Why is the FCC protecting newspapers? I don’t get why we’re crying crocodile tears over newspapers. . . It’s technology that’s affecting newspapers. Where I live [on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi], we use newspapers to wrap mullet. Putting aside the fishwrap reference (oddly reminiscent of the fate of some Bach manuscripts), let’s just note the incredulity…

Three updates

Three stories moved forward today: 1. Verizon dropped its legal challenge to the 700 MHz auction rules. I have a feeling they’ve decided that there are ways to work around [link to post giving work-around clues] the no-locking, no-blocking conditions that the FCC established. Plus VZ doesn’t want to be the bad guy, charged by Congress with delaying the auction. They’ve got bigger problems on their hands given the NARAL flap and the fact that… 2. Comcast admitted “delaying” traffic on its network. I learned today that EFF had been…

Interfaces

You may remember that in March 2006, when the FCC had only four commissioners, a Verizon petition to have all common-carriage-type requirements lifted from its relationships with businesses was “deemed granted” by the Commission’s silence — split 2-2, the Commission said nothing by the deadline for action on that petition. This non-action was part of a steady, incremental removal of rules from highspeed access in the U.S. that is still going on. There were a couple of news items recently that relate to this subject. First, the D.C. Circuit today…

Rulemaking: Timing is Everything

Last week’s GAO report, “FCC Should Take Steps to Ensure Equal Access to Rulemaking Information,” didn’t have too much impact. All the telecommunications “stakeholders” with offices in Washington, D.C. know how things work. Rulemakings go on indefinitely. They start at some point, these proceedings, and then they just keep going. There may be interim rules, notices of further proposed rules, requests for additional information, any number of other filings. There are deadlines for comments on particular pieces of paper, but the process keeps rolling and doesn’t have to be completed…