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Summary:

Last Friday afternoon, the FCC issued a report putting to rest worries about interference from a free wireless broadband service using the AWS-3 spectrum, paving the way for an auction sometime next year. However, opponents of the auction, including T-Mobile, aren’t going to give up without […]

Last Friday afternoon, the FCC issued a report putting to rest worries about interference from a free wireless broadband service using the AWS-3 spectrum, paving the way for an auction sometime next year. However, opponents of the auction, including T-Mobile, aren’t going to give up without a fight.

The original proposal for the spectrum, put forth two years ago by a Kleiner-backed company called M2Z Networks, had asked the FCC for use of the spectrum in the 2155-2175 MHz band to create a wireless broadband service. M2Z offered the FCC 5 percent of its revenue in exchange for the spectrum. It also pledged 25 percent of its network for free broadband service at lower speeds. The company would charge more for faster speeds and would build out 90 percent of its network in 10 years at a cost of $2 – $3 billion.

In June the FCC issued its own rulemaking proposal, which hewed closely to the M2Z proposal. The FCC proposal would also restrict material that could be deemed obscene and “harmful” to children between ages 5 and 17 (i.e., porn) on the resulting wireless broadband network. Update: An FCC spokesman says that aspect of the proposal will likely get tweaked during the rulemaking process to allow adults to opt-out of such filters.

T-Mobile had argued against the potential auction and use of the spectrum on the grounds that it would interfere with services deployed on the neighboring AWS-1 spectrum, which T-Mobile leased for $4 billion. But it appears that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, isn’t buying into the argument now that T-Mobile’s filters have proven to be ineffective at keeping out content from the nearby spectrum. “You shouldn’t have equipment that reads spectrum you don’t own,” Martin told Dow Jones.

Damn! Who is this reasonable, carrier-smacking FCC chair? It’s nice to see a potential wireless broadband competitor making it out into the world, but the content limitations should give everyone pause. A whole mess of litigation will stand between this network and real use, as any government-created wireless broadband network should probably be free of censorship.

Meanwhile, a mess of litigation might still stand between an AWS-3 auction and the creation of a network, as T-Mobile seems inclined to release the lawyers if the FCC goes forth with its proposal. The company issued a statement from Kathleen Ham, VP of federal regulatory affairs, via email, but didn’t answer my question about suing to protect its interests directly. The statement read:

While we are glad the FCC engineers finally put their observations on the record, we have serious concerns that their analysis is flawed and relies on factors that were not the subject of the testing, while ignoring other important data in the record. In light of this, we are concerned that the result was predetermined unfairly. We and the multiple parties concerned about interference will strongly urge the FCC to provide for sufficient time for comment on their report before any FCC action on these rules.

I may have to eat my words about the unliklihood of wireless broadband competition, but I’ll wait until the networks are up and devices are out before admitting defeat.

  1. Jesse Kopelman Monday, October 13, 2008

    If this really does get auctioned there is zero chance it won’t be bought by an incumbent or an incumbent’s proxy. So, what effect could it have on competition? Now if it were made unlicensed or at least non-exclusively licensed . . .

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  2. Well, intermod is a big problem, and tuning the traps and cavities for each site and close freq allocations is a pain when all you hire is low level techs. They don’t want to give each site engineer a RF spectrum analyzer and the time to trap and tune for adjacent band rejection. Thousands of sites and few resources…so sue those who might lie a few mhz away.

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  3. This would be a huge step forward for getting the rest of America online as well as enabling technologies like VoIP to really have an impact. Ultimately, I donn’t think it will happen because it could lead to a loss of revenues/jobs for a lot of carriers/ISP’s. They will find a way to screw this up somehow, whether it is a lawsuit, restrictions, etc.

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  4. [...] providers on their own lines and buy up wireless spectrum. It is natural that incumbents will argue anywhere and everywhere against such choices. A free, open Internet market will mean higher costs and thinner margins. But [...]

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  5. No way in hell this well ever see the light of day. Anyone and everyone who charges for WiFi service in America presently will fight it.

    We can dream though…

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  7. Any info on what wireless protocol M2Z plans to use (CDMA, LTE, UMB, WIMAX ?) LTE would seem a good choice given its likely near-global deployment from 2010 on.

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  8. I think you really hit the nail on the head this time around! Very nice.

    Jiff
    http://www.privacy.de.tc

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  9. I kind of think the Internet should have rules. The cesspool of misinformation is also a cesspool of copyright theft and pornography. I’d like to see some rules made and enforced to manage all three of those.

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  10. Dear Ted Murphy,

    You would argue that we need small government right? Then why are you arguing for big government to intrude in our lives on the internet?

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