Category Archives: Spectrum

The Sixteenth CMRS Competition Report: A Paralysis Born in Humility

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Each year, Section 331(c)(1)(C) of the Communications Act directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “review competitive market conditions with respect to commercial mobile services and shall include in its annual report an analysis of those conditions.”  To this end, the agency released its Sixteenth Annual CMRS Report last week.  In this latest report, the FCC makes few formal findings, but instead “focuses on presenting the best data available on competition throughout this sector of the economy and highlighting several key trends in the mobile wireless industry.”  (Sixteenth Report at ¶ 2.)  Consistent with the other CMRS Reports issued under Continue Reading »

Sloppy Research Sinks Susan Crawford’s Book…

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This month, Cardozo Law School Professor and former Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy to President Barack Obama Susan Crawford released her new book entitled Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.  Professor Crawford is known as a tireless and vocal advocate for government intervention in and the regulation of telecommunications, and is perhaps the most recognized advocate for the construction of a government-funded and regulated fiber-optic Internet network servicing all American homes and businesses.  Many vigorously oppose Professor Crawford’s ideas by claiming they are overly regulatory and too expensive, but many Continue Reading »

George and Larry’s Excellent Peruvian Broadband Adventure…

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Last week, George and I returned from an amazing trip to Peru where we held two days of workshops with OSIPTEL—the Peruvian telecoms regulator—as part of a project for USAID.  As we covered a wide range of topics, we were once again reminded that while language and individual political nuances among various countries may differ, the fundamental economics—and concurrent complex policy issues—facing telecom regulators remain universal.  That is, how do we get more broadband deployed when it isn’t necessarily profitable to do so? In light of this universal question, we spent a significant amount of time talking about the economics Continue Reading »

Why the FCC Should Not “Tax” Efforts to Repurpose Spectrum…

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The mobile revolution is threatened today by the lack of sufficient commercial spectrum to satiate America’s ever-increasing appetite for wireless devices.  While efforts are underway to hold voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast spectrum and to free-up unused or underutilized government spectrum, most agree that these initiatives are years away from putting spectrum in the hands of commercial users and will be insufficient standing alone to resolve spectrum exhaust even if fully successful.  As a result, the spectrum community is now exploring ways to repurpose spectrum from lower- to higher-valued uses to satisfy the growing demand.  For example, we have recently Continue Reading »

The Curious Case of the FCC’s Spectrum Screen NPRM…

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With the ever-present specter of spectrum exhaust hanging over the wireless industry, policymakers are constantly faced with the corresponding question of how to allocate spectrum among competing providers to ensure that market does not devolve into one with “excessive” concentration under Section 309(j)(3)(B) of the Communications Act.  Since the 1990’s, the FCC has tried a variety of approaches—from outright spectrum caps to the current and more flexible case-by-case “spectrum screen”—to try to manage its statutory charge.  As to be expected given the huge stakes at hand, stakeholders vehemently disagree as to the best approach moving forward (particularly with the new Continue Reading »

Susan Crawford and the Economics of the Wireless Industry…

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Last week, Professor Susan Crawford authored an op-ed entitled What’s Good for Verizon and AT&T Is Terrible for American Consumers.  While Professor Crawford’s emotional argument is a bit scattered, her depiction of an industry in transition provides a useful foundation for discussing the future of broadband in the United States. First, Professor Crawford argues that wireless broadband is a “commodity,” and one that consumers are increasingly using as a substitute for traditional “voice” and “texting” services.  This substitution is arguably true and, as such, we should therefore expect to see broadband providers increasingly employing and experimenting with a variety of Continue Reading »

What the United States Can Learn From OFCOM’s Olympic Spectrum Plan…

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With the Olympic Games opening tonight, it doesn’t take a PhD in electrical engineering to recognize that the broadband infrastructure in the United Kingdom will be stretched to its limits.  According to a recent article, in order to accommodate the huge spike in expected traffic, the Olympics network will span 30,000 connections across 94 locations and will include: 5,500 kilometres of new fiber optic cables; 2,200 switches; 1,800 wireless access points; 7,000 cable TV sockets; 16,500 telephones; and 65,000 active network ports (active connections). But with nearly a million people expected to attend the Games—nearly all of which will be Continue Reading »

Some Thoughts on this Week’s FCC Oversight Hearing…

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This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission.  As to be expected, the issues covered ranged far and wide, demonstrating once again the diversity, multitude and complexity of issues pending before policymakers.  While I have no intention of commenting on them all in this blog post, I would like to highlight a few observations. First and foremost, it was a pleasure to watch new FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai answer questions with both thoughtfulness and, more importantly, significant substantive knowledge about the complexities of our industry.  Both have certainly Continue Reading »

Senator Kohl, Wireless Economics and the “Public Interest” Standard…

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Last week, Senator Herb Kohl, the powerful Chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski informing them that he “believes” that the pending acquisition of unused spectrum by Verizon from a consortium of cable companies “presents serious competition concerns.”  In support of this position, Senator Kohl not only argues that there is excess concentration in the current wireless market (dominated by Verizon and AT&T), but that the transaction would allow a “dominant firm” to gain “access to essential inputs needed Continue Reading »

Julius Genachowski’s Speech at CTIA…

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In his recent keynote speech at the CTIA show in New Orleans, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his (and the industry’s) concern that the “demand for mobile services is on pace to exceed the capacity of our mobile networks” and, therefore, we must “tackle the capacity challenge.” The Chairman has previously foretold of a future where spectrum exhaust could make “consumers […] face slower speeds, more dropped connections, and higher prices.” Plainly, spectrum exhaust remains a key challenge for both mobile service providers and policymakers. The Chairman also took the chance in his CTIA speech to challenge what Continue Reading »