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On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to impose "open access" rules on next year's auction of a valuable chunk of wireless spectrum. These conditions, as outlined previously here, would require companies that win this auction to let their customers use the devices and software of their choice--a big departure from wireless service as we know it.

But the FCC didn't go all the way with this decision, declining to require licensees to wholesale their bandwidth to other companies.

So is that good news? One way to tell is to see what the participants in the debate say afterwards. Set aside any "we appreciate the FCC's hard work blah blah blah" banter and focus on value judgments expressed about the decision. If the companies or lobbies you detest sound unhappy, you can react with the appropriate level of schadenfreude; if the folks you like are cheesed off, you can join them in saying "we wuz robbed!"

* CTIA, the wireless carriers' trade group, expressed a fair amount of resentment:

We are disappointed that a significant portion of this valuable spectrum will be encumbered with mandates that could significantly reduce the number of interested bidders. We remain committed to the principle that wireless consumers and American taxpayers are best served when such a valuable commodity is auctioned in a fair and competitive manner with no strings attached

Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn wrote that the decision could do a lot for wireless phone service, but left the broadband market as oligopolistic as ever:

These are pro-consumer conditions for sure, but do not accomplish the one goal both the FCC and Congress set for the auction - creation of a third broadband service provider that can compete with cable and telephone companies which control 96% of residential broadband lines in the U.S. That could have only been accomplished through adoption of the two other open access conditions; one that would have required the licensee to permit other service providers to connect to the network at wholesale rates, and another that would have required the licensee to make important network interfaces available to those providers.

Google seemed inclined to declare victory after batting .500 in its lobbying efforts:

... the FCC embraced two of the four openness conditions that we suggested several weeks ago: (1) open applications, the right of consumers to download and utilize any software applications or content they desire; and (2) open devices, the right of consumers to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer. We understand that the Commission also may have added real teeth to these two requirements, by plugging some of the more obvious loopholes and giving consumers a tangible remedy for any carrier violations.... By the same token, it would have a more complete victory for consumers had the FCC adopted all four of the license conditions that we advocated.

The SaveTheInternet.com coalition, on the other hand, all but declared defeat:

Our last, best chance to propel us into an era of Internet innovation and creativity was squandered by an agency that too often confuses corporate welfare with public service.

What do you think of the FCC's decision? Share your thoughts in the comments.


By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 3, 2007; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Telecom  
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