Five perspectives on spectrum allocation

Here's a fascinating comparison of five organizations' feelings on spectrum policy. The FCC is proposing to allow some of the unused TV spectrum to be used by WiFi-like devices, which would have to be engineered to be location-aware and capable of selecting and using an appropriate frequency according to a table of which spectrum is idle in what parts of America. It's a pretty cool idea: the spectrum is supposed to belong to the public, so let's find all the nooks and crannies of spectrum that are sitting idle, providing no benefit to anyone, and give them to the public for wireless data use.

The reply comments deadline is tomorrow, and Eric Nguyen, an intern at EFF, has been digging through the initial comments in the docket. He's turned up some really interesting comments:

  1. EFF (100k PDF): Eric and I wrote these comments, which argue that spectrum regulation is a form of speech regulation, and by allowing more people to speak, the FCC is serving the First Amendment
  2. New America Foundation (272k PDF): raises a similar argument, with lots of juicy footnotes to support it
  3. Intel (360k PDF): loves this, natch, since it's an opportunity to sell lots more semiconductors. What's more, they've done a mind-blowing study to show that these devices can be engineered to avoid all harmful interference with licensed spectrum users (i.e., TV stations)
  4. AT&T (96k PDF): surprisingly, they love the idea, too! They've put a bunch of money into a "carrier-grade WiFi" company, but the benefit they cite for WiFi is that it provides a competitive mechanism for dethroning the Baby Bell telco monopolies. Oh, how the times have changed!
  5. Cingular (48k PDF): well, about what you'd expect. These guys paid big bucks for spectrum they want to change the American public for the use of, and they're scared of the unmitigated success of WiFi, which typically provides unmetered connections, which are likely to kill their $0.0X/minute pricing model. The most astonishing thing in this filing, though, is Cingular's argument that WiFi and almost every other unlicensed spectrum use is illegal in the US and that the FCC was asleep at the switch when they approved it.

I think that the contrast between Cingular and AT&T is especially striking here. AT&T is saying, yeah, we're a telco, this is gonna gore our ox, so we've gone out and bought a different ox. Cingular is saying, dammit, that's our ox, where do you get off goring it?


(Thanks, Eric!)