All of a sudden, there’s a rush to push white spaces and USF through?
Is ego presiding over “ergo”?
By the time you receive this issue, there will be a new U.S. president, assuming no ballot disputes. Along with the new leader, there’ll be other newly elected officials as well as legislative initiatives. Among them, at least as I write this, are a number of telecom-related initiatives that will come up for vote at the FCC on Election Day.
In contrast to our elected officials who we have heard about on a daily basis for nearly a year, some of these initiatives seem like they are being crammed through without sufficient outreach and discussion.
Among the topics are “white spaces” and USF reform. In the week leading up to the national election, numerous contingents voiced grave concerns for each initiative, begging the FCC for more time for public discussion. But for reasons that escape me, the FCC chairman seemed hellbent on putting them up for its Nov. 4 vote.
Chairman Kevin Martin’s insistence comes across as a desire to rule on as many initiatives in one fell swoop so as to layer accomplishments on his legacy. The problem is, both of these issues merit further consideration and will leave telecom, broadband and broadcast industries holding the bag long after Martin leaves office.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen so much opposition to FCC activities. The commission, which often seems plodding in its deliberations, suddenly has sped up to warp speed, leaving us all in the dust of its accelerated pace.
Earlier this year, Google’s co-founder Larry Page went to Washington to talk up his idea for tapping unused TV airwaves for wireless Internet access. Called “white spaces,” the FCC has been testing the viability of using these portions of spectrum for wireless access.
The formidable National Association of Broadcasters as well as other groups claimed that using white spaces for wireless services could disrupt TV broadcasts. Meanwhile, the FCC reportedly conducted tests using devices built for white space spectrum. Initial reports suggested there were indeed problems.
Fast forward to the week before the election, and suddenly hundreds of musicians led by Dolly Parton at the Recording Artists Coalition, as well as members of NAMM, American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the Country Music Association and the Grand Ole Opry cited “profound concern” about the Nov. 4 vote. Their fear is that unlicensed wireless devices in white spaces will interfere with wireless microphones.
Of particular interest to me is that these requests aren’t asking to dismantle the proposal nor are they asking for favoritism. They are merely asking to see and review the rules that will be voted on. “Because the FCC has not allowed any opportunity for comment and scheduled its vote on the day of the Presidential election, the public might assume the commission recognizes the significant controversy its vote will generate and is therefore making all efforts to divert media attention away from its decision,” Parton wrote.
For its part, CTIA is supporting a measured approach, urging an incremental move by which unlicensed use of TV white spaces would be limited to a few TV channels.
Having white spaces available for wireless devices and providing broadband for rural areas is a noble cause. But if it will cause interference for TV broadcasts or live performances, might taking more time for assessment be nobler?
The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) and the Alliance of Rural CMRS Carriers (ARC) are up in arms because they say not enough time has been provided to review the FCC proposal for the Universal Service Fund (USF) ruling. Both groups argue that the FCC’s proposed changes will deprive rural consumers of the tools they need for economic growth and the safety and well-being of rural residents.
It’s not just the rural operators that are angry. ATX Group, provider of telematics services to global automobile manufacturers, predicted location-based emergency communications services delivered to vehicles could be cut off under proposed changes in how the FCC collects universal service fees.
As I write this, roughly 25 senators including Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and 78 members of Congress have registered their concern for the rush on USF and intercarrier compensation. It is my hope that in these waning hours before the vote, the FCC chooses the path of further conversation than the slippery slope of rushing to decision. The wait, I believe, would make for a more compelling legacy.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Infrastructure