2013 May

FCC Wireless Bureau Ignores Incentives in the Broadcast Incentive Auction

Posted by | Wireless | No Comments

” . . . the cooperative process envisioned by the National Broadband Plan is at risk of shifting to the traditionally contentious band plan process that has delayed spectrum auctions in the past.”

The National Broadband Plan proposed a new way to reassign reallocated spectrum. The Plan noted that, “Contentious spectrum proceedings can be time-consuming, sometimes taking many years to resolve, and incurring significant opportunity costs.” It proposed “shifting [this] contentious process to a cooperative one” to “accelerate productive use of encumbered spectrum” by “motivating existing licensees to voluntarily clear spectrum through incentive auctions.” Congress implemented this recommendation through legislation requiring the FCC to transition additional broadcast spectrum to mobile use through a voluntary incentive auction process rather than traditional FCC mandates.

Among other things, the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating the broadcast incentive auction proceeding proposed a “lead” band plan approach and several alternative options, including the “down from 51” approach. An overwhelming majority of broadcasters, wireless providers, equipment manufacturers, and consumer groups rejected the “lead” approach and endorsed the alternative “down from 51” approach. This remarkably broad consensus on the basic approach to the band plan promised to meet the goals of the National Broadband Plan by accelerating the proceeding and motivating voluntary participation in the auction.

That promise was broken when the FCC’s Wireless Bureau unilaterally decided to issue a Public Notice seeking additional comment on a variation of the FCC’s “lead” proposal as well as a TDD approach to the band plan. The Bureau issued this notice over the objection of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who issued a separate statement expressing his concern that seeking comment on additional approaches to the band plan when there is a “growing consensus” in favor of the “down from 51” approach could unnecessarily delay the incentive auction. This statement “peeved” Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge, who declared that there is no consensus and that the “down from 51” plan would be a “disaster.” As a result, the cooperative process envisioned by the National Broadband Plan is at risk of shifting to the traditionally contentious band plan process that has delayed spectrum auctions in the past. Read More

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel’s Speech on Spectrum Policy Reveals Intellectual Bankruptcy at DOJ

Posted by | Public Safety, Wireless | No Comments

This week at CTIA 2013, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel presented ten ideas for spectrum policy. Though I don’t agree with all of them, she articulated a reasonable vision for spectrum policy that prioritizes consumer demand, incorporates market-oriented solutions, and establishes transparent goals and timelines. Commissioner Rosenworcel’s principled approach stands in stark contrast to the intellectually bankrupt incentive auction recommendation offered by the Department of Justice last month. Read More

Congress Should Dramatically Simplify the Tax Code and Abolish the IRS

Posted by | Freedom of Speech, International, Regulatory State | No Comments

The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing today to describe the tax practices of Apple, which has shifted $102 billion offshore to avoid paying U.S. income taxes, and offer recommendations to close offshore tax “loopholes”. Although Apple’s tax practices are not illegal, the hearing suggested that its practices were nevertheless scandalous. As recent revelations of abusive practices at the IRS illustrate, however, attempting to close a few tax loopholes won’t address the real scandal, which is our “bizarre and byzantine tax code.” The solution to this scandal is to dramatically simplify the tax code and abolish the IRS. Read More

DOJ Spectrum Plan Is Not Supported by Economic Theory or FCC Findings

Posted by | Public Safety, Wireless | One Comment

Frontline relied on the DOJ foreclosure theory to predict that the lack of eligibility restrictions in the 700 MHz auction would “inevitably” increase prices, stifle innovation, and reduce the diversity of service offerings as Verizon and AT&T warehoused the spectrum. In reality, the exact opposite occurred.

The DOJ recently recommended that the FCC rig the upcoming incentive auction to ensure Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile are winners and Verizon and AT&T are losers. I previously noted that the DOJ spectrum plan (1) inconsistent with its own findings in recent merger proceedings and the intent of Congress, (2) inherently discriminatory, and (3) irrational as applied. Additional analysis indicates that it isn’t supported by economic theory or FCC factual findings either. Read More

Is the FCC Seeking to Help Internet Consumers or Preserve Its Own Jurisdiction?

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Public Safety | 15 Comments

As the “real-world” continues its inexorable march toward our all-IP future, the FCC remains stuck in the mud fighting the regulatory wars of yesteryear, wielding its traditional weapon of bureaucratic delay to mask its own agenda.

Late last Friday the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice proposing to trial three narrow issues related to the IP transition (the transition of 20th Century telephone systems to the native Internet networks of the 21st Century). Outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says these “real-world trials [would] help accelerate the ongoing technology transitions moving us to modern broadband networks.” Though the proposed trials could prove useful, in the “real-world”, the Public Notice is more likely to discourage future investment in Internet infrastructure than to accelerate it. Read More

Internet Analogies: Twice as Many Americans Lack Access to Public Water-Supply Systems than Fixed Broadband

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Freedom of Speech, Internet Analogies | No Comments

“If broadband Internet infrastructure had been built to the same extent as public water-supply systems, more than twice as many Americans would lack fixed broadband Internet access.”

After abandoning the “information superhighway” analogy for the Internet, net neutrality advocates began analogizing the Internet to waterworks. I’ve previously discussed the fundamental difference between infrastructure that distributes commodities (e.g., water) and the Internet, which distributes speech protected by the First Amendment – a difference that is alone sufficient to reject any notion that governments should own and control the infrastructure of the Internet. For those who remain unconvinced that the means of disseminating mass communications (e.g., Internet infrastructure) is protected by the First Amendment, however, there is another flaw in the waterworks analogy: If broadband Internet infrastructure had been built to the same extent as public water-supply systems, more than twice as many Americans would lack fixed broadband Internet access. Read More