Posts by Rob Frieden

News Flash! FCC Identifies Market Failures in Wireless Marketplace

The FCC’s recent Second Report and Order on data roaming obligations of facilities-based operators (see this Microsoft Word document) offers two fascinating insights, only one of which will receive much attention.  Scholars and practitioners alike will concentrate on the FCC’s use of Title III spectrum management as the basis for mandating data roaming negotiations, backed up by formal complaint resolution.  Analysts will marvel at how the Commission has managed to impose an interconnection regime without convincingly addressing how information service providers lawfully bear such duties.  Additionally the Commission  does not fully explain how the duty to negotiate on commercially reasonable terms and conditions does not constitute common carriage and a “duty to deal.”   

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The Verizon Wireless Data Rip Off—A Case Study

For several years now, without unilateral amends by the company, or intervention by the FCC, Verizon Wireless, has profited handsomely when subscribers push a wrong button on their handsets and unintentionally access the Internet.  15 million subscribers initiated data sessions generating over $90 million in revenues for Verizon.  The revenue number is so high, because many handsets offer one button Internet access and even a few seconds of access generated a $1.99 fee as data users, lacking a monthly plan, trigger a per Megabyte fee regardless of whether only a few bytes got transmitted.  See  <

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AYCE and the Third Screen

AT&T recently announced that it plans to abandon All You Can Eat (“AYCE”) unmetered data pricing substituting usage-based plans.  One certainly can appreciate a strategy that eliminates cross-subsidies from light to heavy users.  But consider what eliminating AYCE does to the overall conceptualization of wireless broadband.

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Determining Causality in Telecommunications

With the FCC and most government actors obsessed with incentive creation, it makes sense to determine whether and how a regulatory or deregulatory action causes some desired outcome.  Consider the creation of incentives to invest in physical plant.  Incumbent carriers have spent a lot of time, money and effort arguing that regulation creates investment disincentives and deregulation does the desired opposite.  This simplistic and not always correct premise constitutes the prevailing wisdom in the U.S.

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The National Broadband Plan—A Work in Progress

The National Broadband Plan represents a thoughtful, albeit belated, recognition that the U.S. federal government can stimulate both the broadband supply and demand through stewardship and vision. However, the Plan does not signal a major shift in strategy, the infusion of billions more in subsidies, or a departure from reliance on marketplace forces to allocate most resources to broadband development. The Plan does make the case for many short and long term adjustments in policies, many of which the FCC cannot effectuate unilaterally in light of the need for a legislative mandate, or cooperation with other government agencies and stakeholders. The Plan offers hope that some leaders in the U.S.

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Update: Short Summary of National Broadband Plan—Edited with link

Having completed the first of many readings of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, I have prepared a relatively short summary of the document. It is available at my web site.

In a nutshell, I see much to like about the Plan, but doubt whether many of the "should" language will get done. More broadly, the Plan does not provide much insight on what the authors think the Commission can do, on its own accord, versus the need for new statutory authorization.

I also wonder just how much coordination one can expect between the Executive Branch and the FCC on such matters as spectrum reallocation and "refarming." Will Executive Branch agencies turn over a new leaf and aspire to greater spectrum efficiency, even if it requires expensive new digital signal processing radios?

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Unlicensed White Space Use as an Airwave “Freeze”

Professors Tom Hazlett and Vernon Smith have an op ed piece in the Oct. 3rd edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled “Don’t Let Google Freeze the Airwaves.” Apparently advocacy by Google, Microsoft, the New America Foundation and others in favor of unlicensed access to unused broadcast television channels freezes out even better reallocation of spectrum that could eventually be auctioned off for highly efficient private use.

Professors Hazlett and Smith appear to think private, unlicensed use could not possibly be as efficient as the command and control provided by a single owner keen on recouping its investments. Using the Professors’ rationale, would unlicensed Wi-Fi home network operators be better off if a single venture secured the 2.4 GHz band and packaged innovative home networking “solutions”? Not for me.

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