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FCC Chair to Wireless Industry: More Spectrum Coming ... And Net Neutrality Rules

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said to the wireless industry Wedneday, "It's all about mobile."

As such, Julius Genachowski commended AT&T and Verizon Wireless for their announcements yesterday that showed they were moving more in the direction Genachowski wants: to an open Internet. But he showed no sign of retreat from his push for new net neutrality rules that would codify and expand policies at the FCC to prevent Internet service providers from acting as gatekeepers of Web content on their networks.

"I believe it will be essential to ensure that the Internet remains open -- a vibrant platform for innovation and investment, creativity and speech, an enduring engine for job creation and economic growth," he said. "As we embrace the opportunities of a wired and wireless broadband world, we shouldn't have uncertainty about whether we'll have an open Internet. That is why I said two weeks ago that the FCC should codify a fair and common-sense framework to preserve an open Internet. And later this month, I expect that the FCC will begin an open proceeding to explore how best to do so."

The wireless industry has complained that any new rules for broadband operators shouldn't apply to the wireless industry. Leaders of AT&T and Verizon Wireless have pointed to the different technical aspects of wireless networks that don't aren't as robust as wireline networks. If they don't manage traffic to ease congestion, some users will have to deal with slow or dropped service, they say.

Genachowski said his proposal for new rules aren't meant to be "heavy-handed and prescriptive."

"I also recognize that the wireless industry has its own market structure and competitive landscape, which of course we'll analyze in our proceeding," Genachowski said.

But the rules are necessary, he said: "There shouldn't be any confusion. I believe firmly in the need for the FCC to preserve Internet openness, whether a person accesses the Internet from a desktop computer or a wireless laptop or netbook."

Genachowski's remarks come after announcements Tuesday by the two largest wireless service providers -- AT&T and Verizon -- where they showed they were trying to be more open. AT&T said it would allow Internet voice applications for the iPhone to run on its wireless networks. Verizon forged a partnership with Google to develop phones on Google's Android software platform. The operating system is open for any applications and the phones will include Google Voice, a calling service that is currently unavailable on the iPhone.

"I also appreciate AT&T's announcement yesterday allowing Internet calling applications on the iPhone -- a decision I commend," Genachowski said in a keynote speech at wireless industry conference hosted by CTIA. "And also Verizon's announcement about the Android platform. These are both wins for consumers, and I look forward to hearing more."

In his speech, he introduced a four-part plan to encourage growth in the mobile industry. The plan included unleashing more spectrum for the wireless industry and removing regulatory obstacles that have been slowing down the progress of new mobile broadband networks under construction and expected to hit markets next year.

On spectrum, what Genachowski described as the "oxygen" of mobile networks, he was in agreement with the industry that there isn't enough to meet the demands of mobile users down the road. He promised to look into how to reallocate spectrum that isn't being used to give to commercial carriers. CTIA has asked for 800 mhz of spectrum to meet their members' needs.

"We must identify spectrum that can best be reinvested in mobile broadband," he said.

He said the agency would promote the use of unlicensed spectrum, such as WiFi networks. He pointed to the possibility of new technologies such as smart antennas and femtocells.


By Cecilia Kang  |  October 7, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
 
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Comments

Again, the key issue here is that both Verizon Wireless and AT&T made significant moves to open their networks and services to competition only after Genachowski said he believed net neutrality rules should apply to wireless. If the mere threat of such rules has such an impact, it kind of disproves the argument that such rules are unnecessary and without value. More explanation here: http://bit.ly/odaf7

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Posted by: robtpoe | October 7, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

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