The Other End of the Spectrum
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.
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