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Kohl, Hatch call on FCC to give spectrum to new wireless carriers

Key Senate lawmakers overseeing competition and antitrust called on the Federal Communications Commission to put spectrum already in the agency’s inventory into the hands of new wireless carriers to promote competition among broadband Internet providers.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the subcommittee on antitrust and competition policy, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member of the committee, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to address concerns that there isn’t enough competition in the broadband industry:

“Rather than leaving it to the Department of Justice to address market failures after the fact, we believe the FCC should readily use its ample authority to promote new entry and increased competition in the broadband market,” according to the letter (pdf).

Specifically, the lawmakers ask the FCC to put some of three spectrum bands already in the FCC’s inventory into use by consumers. The three spectrum bands were identified in a meeting last week at the FCC where Blair Levin, head of the agency’s national broadband planning process, revealed potential ways to get high-speed Internet to more U.S. homes. Senators asked Genachowski to explain what it plans to do with those spectrum bands.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.

The letter comes after criticism by public interest and consumer advocacy groups of the FCC’s interim report last week on its national broadband plan that they said didn’t do enough to encourage more competition. The groups called on the FCC to come up with a clear ideas on how to break up what they call a “duopoly” of local cable and telephone companies controlling access to wireline DSL and cable broadband and wireless high-speed Internet.

“The trend in both wireless and wireline broadband markets lead to more consolidation, not less,” said Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press, in a release. “Why are the sacred cows of the telephone, cable, and wireless industry left untouched?”

In a conference call after the FCC meeting last week, Levin disputed the criticism by public interest groups, saying the agency's focus on opening up the television set-top-box market, bringing more spectrum for mobile broadband from broadcasters and reform of a phone subsidy program are all focused on increasing competition.

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 23, 2009; 12:45 PM ET
 
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Comments

Why does Kang, above, quote Ben Scott -- who is, essentially, a lobbyist for her sponsor, Google -- and no independent analyst or actual provider of broadband service?

Posted by: squirma | December 23, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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