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21st Century Spectrum Policy Could Include Map, Possible Future DTV Divestiture, Experts Say

SAN MATEO, Calif., May 12th, 2009 – Increased demand for wireless bandwidth will require a wholesale reassessment of how the U.S. allocates wireless spectrum, a group of experts told attendees at the 2009 Tech Policy Summit.

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SAN MATEO, Calif., May 12th, 2009 – Increased demand for wireless bandwidth will require a wholesale reassessment of how the U.S. allocates wireless spectrum, a group of experts told attendees at the 2009 Tech Policy Summit.

Loopt chief privacy officer Brian Knapp noted the iPhone “game-changer,” has catalyzed the demand for more wireless spectrum.

Michael Calabrese, Vice President of the Wireless Future program at the New America Foundation said existing wireless carriers will need more spectrum to handle the increased demand for on-the-go broadband internet access.  Additionally, Calabrese stated that more available spectrum will allow for more new carriers to emerge and provide better and more diverse choices for consumers.

Jonathan Spalter, Chairman of the Mobile Future advisory board, echoed the need for more spectrum for wireless, adding that we live in a new era where “growth in the mobile space is viral.”  Lowercase Capital founder and early Twitter investor Chris Sacca agreed, noting that while supply of spectrum is growing at a linear rate, demand for spectrum is growing geometrically and that we need to optimize our use of the existing spectrum.

A perceived lack of spectrum is exacerbated by poor management of the spectrum that currently exists, Calabrese said.”We need to accurately inventory all of our spectrum…both privately and publicly owned, to see what really is available.”

The canard of spectrum scarcity is further reinforced by market consolidation, Calabrese said.  Of the 700 Megahertz auction, 80 percent was won by AT&T and Verizon, he said.  That only 20 percent remains for anyone else makes it very hard for new players to emerge, he noted.

The current spectrum auction process is “broken,” said Sacca. And much of the spectrum that has been allocated remains unused, Sacca said.   Aspen Wireless partner Scott Stevens chimed in, suggesting the FCC adopt a “use it or lose it” approach to spectrum licenses, especially for government entities.

Combined with a spectrum mapping bill before the Senate, authored by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., such a policy could help  reclaim the vast swaths of unused government spectrum and open them up to use by the public, Sacca said.

Currently accessible TV white spaces could help  accommodate the additional demand for mobile broadband,  Calabrese said. But the currently approved devices are under-powered because of poor rulemaking at the FCC, he said.

Sacca was more optimistic about the potential of white space devices, suggesting once the map of open spectrum is approved by the FCC, approved devices should be able to take advantage of any unused, unlicensed spectrum.

A potential “third rail” was raised by Consumer Electronics Association czar Gary Shapiro, who asked panelists when it might be possible for TV broadcasters to be required to give up their digital spectrum when it becomes clear not enough consumers recieve over-the-air television to make the use of the band worthwhile. But panelists deflected the question, instead suggesting some sort of mandatory must-carry regime to replace broadcast television.

Wireless

Starry Hosts First Earnings Call, Says its Model Positions it to Compete Against Larger Players

Starry CEO assured investors that Starry’s technology model allows them to compete with other more established providers.

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Photo of Staryy CEO Chet Kanojia, from Starry

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – In its first earnings call since becoming a publicly-traded company, telecom company Starry Inc. reported continued profitability and a desire to expand its services.

Starry, which uses fixed-wireless technology for the last-mile with support from a fiber-based middle-mile, merged with special purpose acquisition company FirstMark Horizon Acquisition Corp to go public in March. Its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said on the earnings call Thursday that Starry has the potential to be a disruptor.

“The opportunity in broadband is to be able to disrupt the sector with extremely low-cost technologies, and to be able to achieve scale with less investment compared to traditional approaches that have been used in the past,” Kanojia said.

“This is not a concept company – we have found investors willing to finance our approach,” Kanojia said. “However, the business ultimately will require more capital,” adding that last quarter, the average user consumed 574 gigabytes of downstream and a substantial amount of upstream.

Kanojia also emphasized that urban and dense suburban areas continue to make up the majority of Starry’s consumer base.

“In order to succeed as a service provider, we need to be able to match speed and capacity,” he added.

Kanojia also said that connecting a new customer to the network costs around $100, and this is over years of improving and refining the process in order to keep the cost down.

In addition to operating the infrastructure, Kanojia said that Starry owns it as well, which has allowed the company to cut down on supply chain interruptions and exercise more control over how the technology is implemented.

“The underlying economic model remains extremely healthy and unchanged,” Kanojia said. “We continue to see the potential for raising the profitability.

“This gives us a lot of confidence that the underlying economic model works as intended and reinforced our desire to expand.”

Chet Kanojia will be the guest on Broadband.Money’s Ask Me Anything! series on Friday, May 13, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Spectrum

Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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WISP

WISPA Announces David Zumwalt as New CEO

Zumwalt’s tenure will begin on June 1.

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Photo of David Zumwalt used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2022 – In a press release Wednesday, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association announced that David Zumwalt will be the association’s president and CEO as of June 1, following selection by a search committee.

Zumwalt will be replacing Claude Aiken, who in February announced that he was stepping down from his position in April, moving to provider Nextlink Internet to serve as its chief strategy officer and chief legal officer.

Zumwalt has served as the CEO of Broadband VI, a major internet service provider in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was formerly the founder, chairman and CEO of CNet, Inc., a provider of radio-frequency engineering and operational support system software and services.

Zumwalt was recruited to Broadband VI to prepare the company for scale, and during his tenure helped guide the organization to a historic $84.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission Connect USVI fund as well as provided operations leadership last year through the organization’s acquisition by a unit of provider Liberty Latin America.

He also has experience leading policy, workforce investment, infrastructure and market outreach initiatives as the CEO and executive director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park Corporation.

“David is simply the best person to guide our members to the tremendous opportunities at stake,” said Todd Harpest, WISPA’s chairman of the board.

Zumwalt praised the work WISPA has done upon his selection.

“WISPA’s active advocacy efforts extend the reach of members at the Federal level and within state and regional jurisdictions,” said Zumwalt.

“I am delighted to be joining WISPA and look forward to leading it as our membership, staff, and Board work to advance our Association’s mission.”

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