Thursday, December 11, 2008

WCAI Applauds President-elect Obama

It was heartening to hear President-elect Barack Obama address the nation on Dec 6 and express his commitment to broadband deployment. “Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world,” said President-elect Obama. At WCAI, we believe wireless must be part of that commitment, and we look forward to working with the new Administration and incoming Congress on these issues in the coming year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

WCAI Joins Diverse Group of Organizations in a Call to Action for a National Broadband Strategy

WCAI was part of a broad and diverse group that this week released a Call to Action for President-elect Barack Obama and the incoming Congress "to make the development and initial implementation of a comprehensive National Broadband Strategy a high national priority in 2009." The group also includes prominent industry players, such as WCAI Board members Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Clearwire and Google, as well as consumer groups, public interest groups, educators, state and local governments, and other stakeholders in America's broadband future.

The Call to Action states that the United States urgently needs a comprehensive national broadband strategy. It sets forth a policy framework that includes the following goals: (1) open access to the Internet "to the maximum feasible extent" for all users, service providers, content providers, and application providers; (2) rights for network operators to manage their networks "responsibly, pursuant to clear and workable guidelines and standards"; (3) a competitive Internet and broadband marketplace, to the greatest extent possible; and (4) broadband network performance, capacity, and connections that US citizens need to compete successfully in the global marketplace. The Call to Action concludes with a commitment of the signatories to continue to work together to address key issues and priorities and to hold an event in the spring of 2009 to present more specific recommendations to President Obama, Congress and the American People.

WCAI is pleased to be at the forefront of the industry initiative to work with the new administration on developing a comprehensive national broadband strategy. The Call to Action joins the National Wireless Broadband Strategy for the New Administration WCAI released earlier this year, outlining recommendations to achieve universal wireless broadband access nationwide. As the only broadband platform that is capable of providing access everywhere, all the time, wireless broadband platforms offer mobility - a connection to every person whether at home or on the go. These capabilities make wireless broadband essential to achieving universal broadband connectivity.

WCAI will continue to play an active role in working with policymakers, industry players and others in the broadband ecosystem to help develop a comprehensive national broadband strategy with the goal of achieving universal wireless broadband access in the United States.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spectrum Aggregation: Adjudication or Rulemaking?

Over the summer, a petition was filed at the FCC asking the Commission to impose an absolute limit of 110 MHz on the amount of spectrum a company could hold in any given county. The petition argues that a spectrum cap is necessary to prevent service providers from impeding competition.

As WCAI noted in its pleading on this issue, “there is no question that the Commission should continue to guard against spectrum aggregations that harm the public interest.” But the Commission already has that power – and exercises it on a case-by-case basis during review of transactions and auctions. The only question is whether the Commission should abandon its current flexibility to analyze spectrum aggregation concerns on a case-by-case basis in favor of the inflexible, hard spectrum cap proposed in the petition.

The primary problem with a hard spectrum cap established by rule is the inability to rapidly adapt it to market and technology changes. As WCAI notes in its pleading:

“In this evolving, nascent mobile wireless broadband environment, the flexibility provided by case-by-case review remains the best way for the Commission to promote competition, minimize barriers to deployment, and encourage additional investment in wireless broadband infrastructure. The Commission must preserve its ability to respond to rapid changes as they occur, rather than attempt to accurately predict them in advance . . . .”

I couldn’t say it better.

So, how rapidly is the mobile wireless broadband environment evolving? Fast. Since just 2006, the Commission has made additional wireless broadband spectrum available in the AWS-1 band, BRS/EBS band, 700 MHz band, 5 GHz band, 3650 MHz band, and the DTV white spaces. T-Mobile began using Wi-Fi VOIP, Apple released the iPhone, and 3G/4G services have been deployed on a wide scale. And a new, nationwide competitor has emerged.

While a spectrum cap may have been appropriate in the pre-broadband era, when mobile wireless services were limited almost exclusively to narrowband voice and the technologies and amount of available spectrum for such services were relatively static, it is poorly suited for the rapidly evolving broadband wireless marketplace that exists today.