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The Other End of the Spectrum

Kim Hart

In a letter he sent to the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, former Senator John Edwards encouraged Chairman Kevin Martin to use upcoming auction of the 700 megahertz broadband spectrum to "make the Internet more affordable and accessible to all Americans."

The FCC is taking this part of the spectrum away from broadcasters as they move from analog to digital signals, and plans to auction it off to bidders as early as this fall. The 700 MHz spectrum is coveted by telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T because it is ideal for wireless broadband, especially in rural areas. Cable companies are also expected to lead the bidding as they begin to roll out wireless offerings.

In his letter, Edwards urged the FCC to set aside as much as half of the spectrum "for wholesalers who can lease access to smaller start-ups, which has the potential to improve service to rural and underserved areas."

While just about every player in the telecom industry--even Google-- has something to say about the 700 MHz spectrum auction, insiders say its surprising to see interest by a presidential candiate.

And Edwards' letter follows this month's release of Al Gore's new book, "The Assault on Reason." In the final pages of his book, Gore voiced his opinion on net neutrality debate, which will decide whether Internet companies can charge for preferred access to content. Gore writes, "neutrality should be the central tenet that will set us on a path toward an open, democratic Internet where free speech and free markets are encouraged."

Art Brodsky, who works for a DC-based advocacy group called Public Knowlege, said he's encouraged by politicians' newfound interest.

"Between Gore and Edwards, it looks like someone is discovering our issues," Brodsky said. "Obviously the Internet and the telecom industry are both very important to our economy."

Barack Obama has also been reaching out to telecom insiders. Earlier this year, he held a fundraiser with prominent executives from such companies as AOL, XM Radio and SprintNextel.

"It's nice to get noticed, and it's important stuff, too," Brodsky said.

By Kim Hart  |  May 31, 2007; 6:22 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Isn't it former Senator John Edwards?

But it is nice to see Presidential hopefuls try to woo and embrace technology.

Posted by: Kim | May 31, 2007 8:59 AM

The operative word in the Edwards quote is "wholesalers".

That reveals that one of the parties arguing before the FCC, Frontline, has gotten to him. Frontline advocates a wholesale business model, just like the late ? lamented NextWave Telecom originally did.

I agree. I think the wholesale model will definitely stimulate the field as he stated.

With regard to neutrality, it is wireless hardware neutrality -- not just data net neutrality -- that will be the crucible for neutrality principles.

Posted by: rotonique | May 31, 2007 4:31 PM

My name is Bill Deere and I am the Vice President for Government Affairs at the USTelecom Association.

We all agree on the importance of equal access to the life-improving applications delivered by broadband. So I am not surprised to see Presidential candidates weighting-in with their opinions on how to best achieve this goal. Every campaign season, candidates discuss reducing health care costs and expanding coverage, improving education and making our small businesses more competitive in the global marketplace. Broadband carries the promise of closing the gap in these and many other areas.

These broadband innovations will continue as long as the government does not regulate the Internet. A policy of non-intervention will allow programs like telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting to continue to flourish.

This is why I fail to see the logic from those who purport to support broadband deployment on the one hand, but call for government regulation on the other.

I welcome comments relative to this or any other matter dealing with Net neutrality on the USTelecom blog,

Posted by: Bill | June 1, 2007 5:37 PM

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