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The members of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, which includes PK, held our collective breath for almost 12 hours today before finding out that the FCC will indeed seek comment on all of the issues we raised in our filings urging specific auction and service rules for the 700 MHz spectrum auction. To recap generally, we are seeking rules that would promote the creation of a competitor to the cable-telco broadband duopoly. For details on what we've proposed, check out our posts here and here. But today's concern was largely procedural - we knew that the Commission was not going to be making a lot of firm decisions, and just wanted to ensure that our issues remained on the table for the public to comment upon.
The Commission meeting was due to start at 9:30 this morning, but as a result of a dispute over what the size of the 700 MHz licenses should be, the meeting got pushed back to 6:45 this evening (the Commission resolved the issue by asking for more comment on the license size rather than making a firm decision). At about 8:00, discussion of the auction item began. Each and every Commissioner mentioned the need for this auction to result in a third broadband competitor. I was particularly delighted when Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein specifically mentioned the Coalition by name.
But credit is due all around. Chairman Martin was clearly a leader here, and gave the Coalition a last minute meeting that may have been decisive. Despite incredibly busy schedules last week, the other offices were also accessible and very responsive. With hospitality like that, I may have to visit more often!
Of course, there is much work ahead for the Coalition. Just because the Commissioners agreed to ask our questions doesn't mean they agree with our answers. It will be up to us to educate and activate policymakers, the press and the public about what this auction means for the country's broadband future. And time is short -- the Commission would like to have the rules in place six months before the auction is to begin, which by law is no later than January 28, 2008. So the rules would need to be adopted no later than the end of July. That means that the period for public comment on our proposals will be short and probably over by the end of May. Then the real fun begins as the Commission starts its deliberations.
Buckle your seat belts - this is going to be one wild ride!