Press Release

Save Our Spectrum Coalition Praises FCC Actions on Spectrum Auction

April 27, 2007 , , ,

For Immediate Release

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be commended for taking the first procedural steps to help consumers by enabling high-speed Internet services to use the spectrum now occupied by television stations.

Technically, the FCC decided to put out for comment a range of proposals suggested by the Coalition, including making spectrum available to many service providers and using bidding techniques in an auction that would reduce the influence of existing cellular providers. Both FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein mentioned the suggestions made by the six-member public interest coalition in filings earlier this month. The members of the coalition are: Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, New America Foundation and Free Press.

Among other recommendations, the group told the FCC that the auction for the 700 MHz band should Commission should

  • establish a service rule for broadband services operating in the 700 MHz band that protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider.

  • allow third-party access to spectrum owned by other companies. This “open access” plan to include wholesale access to networks would enable more competitors to offer services

  • institute anonymous bidding in auctions to lessen the possibility of bid signaling and bid rigging that studies found to have taken place in prior auctions.

Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said, “We are very pleased that the Commission recognizes the pivotal role this auction will play in helping to create a competitor to cable and the telephone companies. If the Commission adopts the rules we suggest, consumers will benefit from having more companies offer more types of services in many different areas. We are grateful to Chairman Martin and to the commissioners for their help and responsiveness to our public interest concerns.”

“If we're going to close the digital divide at home and keep up with the rest of the world, we need more broadband competition,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “The auction of this invaluable slice of the public airwaves may be our best and last chance to build the much-anticipated third pipe for high-speed Internet access. Now is our chance to build a neutral, open and competitive alternative to the cable-DSL duopoly. We urge the FCC to choose the path that promises to bring the benefits of broadband to all Americans.”

“The Commission has wisely chosen to ask all the important questions despite the efforts of the incumbents to shut down the debate. We look forward to a critical and robust discussion which will have lasting impacts on our digital future,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president of the Media Access Project.

“We are pleased the Commission will consider opening as much as half the spectrum in the auction for wholesale access by the thousands of small and mostly rural wireless ISPs, community wireless networks and other innovative services that cannot afford to buy exclusive licenses covering large areas. We believe this will promote badly needed broadband deployment and competition,” said Michael Calabrese, who directs the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, a Washington D.C. think tank.