Does Political “Kabuki Theater” Help or Hurt the Regulatory Review Process?

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Recently, The Hill reported that Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo—the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, respectively—wrote a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton calling for a hearing to examine the proposed sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon by a consortium of cable companies.  Without question, Congress has the authority to hold a hearing on anything they deem relevant at any time they want.  That said, and with all due respect to the powers of the legislative branch, it is unclear what a politically-charged hearing would contribute at this Continue Reading »

A Response to Steven Crowley at GigaOm…

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This past February, we released a paper entitled Wireless Competition After Spectrum Exhaust.  As far as we can tell, this paper was the first serious attempt to model the effect of spectrum exhaust on mobile wireless competition.  We found that the addition of a binding capacity constraint (i.e., spectrum exhaust) to the standard Cournot model of competition reveals that that fewer—not more—firms would lead to lower price, more investment, and more jobs.  Our paper, not unexpectedly, raised a few eyebrows.  (For a CliffsNotes summary of our paper, see my February 8, 2012 blog post.) This weekend, Steven Crowley at GigaOm, Continue Reading »

Some Thoughts on the FCC’s New Interoperability NPRM…

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Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued an interesting Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or “NPRM.”  Basically, the FCC announced that assuming that some technical glitches can be worked out (and the agency was optimistic that they could), the FCC would like to see—either by voluntary agreement or by regulatory fiat—interoperability for mobile devices and equipment in the lower 700 MHz band. The agency’s rulemaking appears to be motivated by the desire to promote handset availability for the smaller and rural operators that purchased A block licenses in the 2008 auction.  According to these carriers, given their given their small Continue Reading »

More Evidence on the Failure of Government “Stimulus”…

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Last week, there was sad story in the Washington Times reporting that the District of Columbia has received more than $855 million in federal economic stimulus funds since 2009, but that this spending had not been shown to produce any significant improvement in the city’s jobs outlook.  As a third-generation Washingtonian, it would be easy for me to blame the failure of federal stimulus to actually do any stimulating on the congenital dysfunction of the D.C. Government.  Instead, I think the lesson learned here is that despite its intentions, government stimulus just isn’t that helpful in creating new private sector Continue Reading »

Curbing the FCC’s Ability to Impose “Voluntary” Merger Commitments…

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Over my eighteen years in the telecommunications business, one of my biggest pet peeves has been the politicization of the Federal Communication Commission’s merger review process.  As I noted in a paper entitled Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of the “Public Interest” Standard I authored with my former colleague Tom Koutsky back in 2007 and subsequently published in an academic journal in 2010, my issue is not that the concept of the “public interest” is vague (it is not), but that both sides of the aisle conveniently ignore the relevant caselaw when it Continue Reading »

Should Content Providers be Allowed to Contribute to the Cost of Mobile Bandwidth?

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention, and I’m sure the attention of many others.  The article—AT&T May Try Billing App Makers (February 28, 2012)—reported that AT&T and content providers were discussing ways in which the providers of mobile content, like video streaming, could pay for (in whole or part) the cost of the data traffic on behalf of the end user.  According to the article, the interest in a content-payer system is being encouraged by content developers that “could use the feature to drum up new business from customers wary of using data-heavy services like Continue Reading »

Are Spectrum Caps Back?

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As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”  Well, in the case of spectrum policy, we got our wish this month when President Obama signed into law the Payroll Tax Extension bill which contained sweeping provisions to free up much-needed new commercial spectrum. While the implementation of the specific provisions of such ambitious legislation will no doubt be complex and arduous, I would like to touch on two general themes in this particular post. First, we at the Phoenix Center are very proud that our research helped contribute to get the D Block assigned to public safety Continue Reading »

Thoughts About Today’s Oversight Hearing on the FCC’s Budget and Spending…

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Earlier today, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing on entitled “The Budget and Spending of the Federal Communications Commission.”  Given the growing size of the federal bureaucracy, conducting this sort of oversight is indeed welcome news. In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Greg Walden noted that “Last year, the FCC was given a budget of $424.8 million, and the FCC has reported that it can maintain current services with a budget of $421.2 million.  Although that’s less than a one percent decrease, it’s a start, and I appreciate the Continue Reading »

I Can “C” (Block) Clearly Now About Spectrum Auctions…

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The FCC, in its National Broadband Plan, concluded that U.S. commercial mobile carriers desperately need more spectrum, describing an industry operating with “just a fraction of the amount that will be necessary to match growing demand.”  Echoing the concern, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski cautioned that “without action, demand for spectrum will soon outstrip supply. … If we don’t tackle the spectrum crunch now, network congestion will grow, and consumer frustration will grow with it.” In response, Congress is working on a partial solution to the impending shortfall, including authorizing the FCC to conduct an auction in which broadcasters voluntarily transfer Continue Reading »

Wireless Competition Under Spectrum Exhaust (CliffsNotes Edition)…

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As noted in our earlier blog posts, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seems to be of two minds when it comes to spectrum policy.  On one hand, he has taken great pains throughout his tenure to warn about the crucial issue of spectrum exhaust for commercial spectrum.  As also noted in our earlier blog posts, the FCC under Chairman Genachowski has at the same time expressed grave concerns about the concentrated nature of the U.S. wireless market in its CMRS Reports and, as such, has condemned large transactions such as AT&T/T-Mobile and imposed a de facto spectrum cap when it approved Continue Reading »