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Wireless Can Solve 'Last Mile' Competition Problem, McDowell Tells Senators

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By Alex Tcherkassky, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2009 – Robust competition and expanded wireless services will be fundamental pieces of the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband plan, Commissioner Robert McDowell told members of the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday. McDowell appeared before the committee as it considered his nomination for a second term on the agency.

The communications marketplace has evolved in ways that have been "nothing short of amazing" since he joined the commission three years ago, McDowell said in his opening statement. McDowell pointed out that broadband subscriptions have grown by 40 percent over that time. And nearly 20 percent of households subscribe only to wireless communications services, he said, including wireless broadband - which he claimed has grown by 400 percent.

Those services are increasingly important to American business, McDowell said. "America's economy rides on the rails of the communications sector," he said. McDowell pledged to encourage policies to foster "sustainable economic growth." The FCC's role is "more important now than ever," he said.

Many network neutrality disagreements stem from a belief that there is a long-standing duopoly over the "last mile" to the home between telephone and cable companies, McDowell told Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, while responding to a question.

But policies that lead to increased competition can effectively solve the net neutrality problem, he said. That competition will come in the form of fourth-generation, or 4G, services being offered on the newly-opened 700 MegaHertz (MHz) bands, Wi-Max and through TV "white space" devices, he said.  “Coming over the horizon we have a multitude of opportunities for competition on the last mile.”

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