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Marty Cooper

Broadband Roundup: A Spectrum Efficiency Challenge, Comcast Comments, Verizon Vexes Industry

in FCC/Fiber/Mobile Broadband/Net Neutrality/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, October 7, 2014 – Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and wireless industry pioneer Marty Cooper took to the opinion page of the San Jose Mercury News to offer their thoughts on the future of wireless spectrum.

As they emphasized the importance and centrality of mobile devices and Internet access, the two highlighted the limited amount of spectrum for wireless broadband. The answer to this problem: a federal challenge to find ways to use the finite amount of spectrum 50 to 100 times more efficiently, which they dubbed “Race to the Top, Spectrum Edition.” The potential prize of this challenge: 10 Megahertz, suitable for mobile broadband.

The duo acknowledged the fact that the reward may seem small. However, if the minimum efficiency benchmark is reached, “10 megahertz of spectrum could do the work of 500 megahertz using today’s technology.” Furthermore, the winner could sell or lease the spectrum prize.

The FCC Commissioner and Cooper, regarded as the “father of the cellphone,” both see the challenge as a much-needed catalyst to further wireless innovation. “We could take what we learn from it to help develop new measures of spectrum efficiency…. Revolutionary opportunities lie ahead — if we find new ways to seize them.”

Comments for Comcast Merger Extended

The Federal Communications Commission has extended the comment period for the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger to allow opponents more time to respond, National Journal reported. The Commission approved Dish Network’s request to extend the deadline until Oct. 29 in light of Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s 850-page defense of their deal, which, as the FCC pointed out in its extension, was both late and “incomplete or…otherwise nonresponsive.”

The FCC has “paused” the 180-day timeline it set for itself to issue a decision on the merger. While Comcast had opposed the extension, its spokeswoman said that the extension is routine for major transactions like its prior Comcast-NBCUniversal deal, which was ultimately approved.

Fiber Providers Add Video as Cable Companies Nix TV

As more small cable companies move to offering internet-only access, Little Rock-based Windstream announced its move in the opposite direction: a fiber-carried TV option called Kinetic, for 50,000 homes in the Lincoln, Nebraska area starting in the first half of 2015.

Kinetic calls itself, “a total entertainment option that leverages the company’s existing 100 percent fiber-backed network to provide customers with a wide array of features that will enable the highest quality video entertainment,” speedmatters.org reported.

Windstream will offer Kinetic with its high-speed internet and phone service. Where the company cannot deploy this IP-TV product, it will partner with satellite providers for their triple-play offerings, CEO Jeff Gardner said at the Comptel PLUS Convention.

Broadband Industry Mutters Under Its Breath At Verizon

The government’s net neutrality rules were thrown out when Verizon Communications won its case against the Federal Communications Commission, and the broadband industry is not pleased, the National Journal reported.

Not only could the current outcome of the net neutrality debate lead to tighter regulation of wired broadband under Title II, but it could also lead to net neutrality rules being applied to wireless broadband, which was left largely untouched in the 2010 Open Internet Order. While Verizon’s broadband peers won’t publicly chastise the telecom giant, broadband-industry officials have spoke of the extensive frustration for Verizon’s strategic error. Some had urged Verizon to drop its lawsuit.  

“They were like a dog chasing a bus,” one broadband source said. “What are you going to do when you catch the bus?”


FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell on C-SPAN’s ‘Communicators’

in National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, January 8, 2010 –  With about a month left until the Federal Communications Commission delivers its National Broadband Plan to Congress, Commissioner Robert McDowell spoke about the impending plan – as well as spectrum politics, Net neutrality and competition in the video media landscape – on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.”

Commissioner McDowell began by commending the quality work of the broadband team and the numerous updates and outlines that have been presented over the past year.

The interview with Washington Post Report Cecilia Kang, was conducted before FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski requested a month-long extension of the February 17, 2010, deadline. McDowell said that the agency’s five agency commissioners would have their first look at the broadband plan on February 11. McDowell also said that there was no requirement that the agency would vote formally on the proposal.

A whether there will be any Republican dissent to the plan, McDowell countered that the Republicans and Democrats on the Commission can dissent on any number of issues but that will not affect the outcome of the presentation to Congress.

McDowell hopes Congress will analyze and consider all of the issues and take appropriate action to stir adoption through tax incentives or other means. Once the plan is in the hands of Congress the Commission will then be able to focus on other essential spin off issues such as changes to the Universal Service Fund subsidy program.

When asked about the true purpose of the plan for 2010, McDowell said that while some studies claim that there is already a 95 percent penetration rate for broadband, the true question is whether “those speeds are actually fast enough and whether there is enough bandwidth for cutting edge technologies?”

He followed by explaining that while cable might pass 92% of the country, with an upgrade to DOCIS 3.0, 92 percent of the country might actually be wired to 100 Megabits per second.

Since he came to the agency, McDowell’s main focus has been on the construction of new delivery platforms such as fiber, wireless and satellite. These delivery platforms are the only real way to address the broadband supply gap.

Kang mentioned that the Commissioner’s comments echo some of the most recent correspondence from the administration calling for the need for more competition.

She asked McDowell what are his beliefs on the competitive landscape specifically the wireless sector and how, given the need for competition can one reconcile the fact that the biggest wireless providers are also the biggest providers of fixed wireless, AT&T and Verizon.

McDowell responded that “you cannot have enough competition…since I have been at the Commission, I have looked for ways to create new competition and that obviates regulation on many levels.”

He added, “I would like to see more spectrum audits as long as we manage our expectations ahead of time.” He said that it was very difficult to pin point a time and place to see who is using what spectrum for what purpose.

McDowell said he believed that we are in “The Golden Age of Wireless.” He quoted Marty Cooper, one of the most influential people in the development of the cell phone, in saying that “spectral efficiency doubles every 2.5 years and since the development of radio we are 2 trillion times more spectrally efficient.”

He also added that with the increased use of smartphones there might be a current efficiency gap, but this tension creates more incentives to use the airwaves even more efficiently.

The spectrum efficiency discussion lead to the question of the use of white spaces. McDowell again commended the agency for their November 2008 decision to approve the use of unlicensed devices for unused spectrum. Kang then turned the discussion towards Google’s role in administering the white spaces database and documenting the gaps between the users and the unused spectrum.

She followed up with a question about whether such a task supposed to be performed by a neutral third party can be accomplished by a company like Google with its own communications interest.

While traditionally such a role would have been handled by a truly neutral party, McDowell believes that Google could handle the task as long as their interests are examined.

Next, Kang asked McDowell why he chose to agree to a Net Neutrality rulemaking proceeding when he felt that there would be no need for a new policy? Would there be a new rule or policy that he would be comfortable with, and how can white spaces solve some of the problems with net neutrality policy?

Since the Net Neutrality proceeding comments are due on January 14, McDowell felt the most important feed back would be hard evidence on whether without these rules there will be a systemic market failure.

He understands that his opponents might fear anticompetitive discrimination on behalf of the operators, but he also explained that few instances of discrimination have been handled through the appropriate FCC procedures.

McDowell said he believed that “the cure for anticompetitive conduct is more competition.” He continued, “we have not yet seen the fruits of the newly auctioned 700Mhz spectrum…WiMAX technologies and white spaces.” With these technologies in place, McDowell believes that the consumers will be fully protected.

McDowell said he was worried about the unforeseen consequences of new regulation. “The new regulation would essentially be a tax, and when you tax you tend to get less out of the service.”

In quoting Ronald Reagan he said “they are those that see something moving and they want to tax it, if it keeps moving they regulate and if stop moving then they subsidize it.” McDowell said he did not want that to happen with the Internet.

On a related note, McDowell was asked whether the FCC has jurisdiction to regulate the internet and more specifically the question of search neutrality. He stated that the proposed rules place all regulation on the network operators and not the application providers; however, he welcomes comment from the public as to whether they believe the FCC has such jurisdiction over the search providers.

McDowell also agreed with the dissent in the 2008 Comcast-BitTorrent ruling because he questions whether congress has given the FCC enough authority to regulate information services in such a way.

While McDowell avoided a question on the Comcast-NBC merger, he did admit that the transition of video from fixed cable and satellite to the internet is an exciting area to watch. McDowell believes that these issues are in their adolescent phases and there are issues between subscription and advertising that the market has yet to figure out.

 Therefore it is his belief that government should allow as much room for free experimentation as long as there are no anticompetitive actions taken.

Finally, McDowell ended his interview by welcoming legislation by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to bring more expertise to the FCC and the decision of the Commission to hire their first scholar in residence as a liaison between the Commission and the academic community.

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