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Ex-FCC Chair: Spectrum Plan "Single Worst Telecom Bill I've Seen" 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-how-do-you-really-feel? dept.
alphadogg writes "Former FCC chairman Reed Hundt made waves when he called the House spectrum auction legislation 'the single worst telecom bill' he's seen. The legislation, which would severely restrict the FCC's ability to place conditions on spectrum auctions, is seen as a non-starter in the Senate where a bipartisan group of senators including John Kerry (D — Mass.) and Jerry Moran (R — Kan.) have signaled strong opposition to the House approach to authorizing spectrum auctions. In this interview, Hundt outlines his major objections to the House bill and describes what he would do differently to make more spectrum available."
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Ex-FCC Chair: Spectrum Plan "Single Worst Telecom Bill I've Seen"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05, 2012 @11:07AM (#38934681)

    ..having repeatedly decided (re: made the mistake) to try international roaming when I was on holiday overseas instead of buying a local sim-card, I can tell you, I have also seen a lot of bad telephone bills!

  • The Problem Is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @11:30AM (#38934811)
    The problem is that many house republicans believe that they can ask God to "create" more spectrum. You know, once it is all used up by the corporations that bribed them. At least a blunder like this could be fixed by reallocation of spectrum. Try reallocating oil out of an empty oil-field, or CO2 back into the ground that quickly.
    Posting mobile, sorry for typos.
    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      Really mods? Flamebait? Is it because it is Sunday and I said something about God? My comment may not have been particularly insightful or interesting, but it is at least partially true, somewhat funny, and more deserving that flamebait. Oh well, fuck it I have karma to burn.
      • by hhw (683423)
        Ack, modded up your original post but modded down this one purely by mistake. Will comment to undo
      • Re:The Problem Is (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:45PM (#38935691) Homepage

        No, flamebait because of the typos. This is Slashdot, we hate typos.

        (And grammar mistakes, man, those really frost us).

        And you probably typed it from an iPhone (we can tell, you know). We hate iPhones.

      • Re:The Problem Is (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:46PM (#38936561)

        It's flamebait because you posted it just to stir the pot. You know it's going to simmer when you attack one party in such a fashion, the ones who support the Republican party are going to lash back then the Democrat party faithful will wing in to put in their two cents worth and you have a full blown flame war. Of course you knew that which is why the comment was flamebait.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          But that brings up the question, is it flamebait if its true? because its pretty obvious that it's the house reps more than the senate that tend to be the real holy rollers, and since they don't get the face time the senate does they are easier to keep bought since so few even keep up with them, they are like the minor league of politicians. So as an independent, so i don't really have a horse in this race, there isn't anything i can find factually wrong about his post, anymore than if i said 'Dems love to

          • by amiga3D (567632)

            It's flamebait if the only real purpose is to cause a flamewar. It's a blanket statement that might fit some of the lawmakers in question but will not fit all or even most. It's a statement made to piss off those that are of the Republican bent and really has no other reason for being posted. There ya go, quid pro quo.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              But if we use your definition then we would lose any and all generalizations! We'd have to say "congressmen (insert huge list) are all holy rollers" when in this case the simple generalization "congress reps are holy rollers' tends to be more generally accurate. i mean again if I say "Dems kiss big media booty" do I REALLY need to go through an entire list of dems that kiss big media booty? If we have to go through a list every time its a subject that will cause someone to be butthurt we are gonna have a LO

  • by RanceJustice (2028040) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @11:42AM (#38934875)

    The FCC absolutely needs to have the regulative authority to say "You can't bid on this without having the money to pay for it, being willing to actually develop on it instead of just sitting on your ass and holding it to lock down competitors until you feel threatened, being willing to roll out development on your new spectrum in rural areas and you have to either keep prices below X or subsidize plans for low-income Americans", but that's at a bare minimum. This bill basically allows anyone who buys spectrum rights to do well... whatever they want with it, even if its to the detriment of everyone save for their own business. Even worse, it prevents the FCC from giving away rights to unlicensed spectrum - Hundt talked about how Wi-Fi would never have come to pass if this bill was in place years ago. I don't want every single possible frequency needlessly licensed to someone with the money to buy it. However, I disagree when it comes to what he says about oligopolistic practices; unless you force fragmentation to a point that is foolish, OR do the right thing and make unlicensed (WiFi, Bluetooth etc..) spectrum and/or public-held "free" spectrum capable of the kind of performance, you'll run into a de-facto oligopoly as the one we have now in telecom/mobile data.

    However, I feel the answer to this issue is relatively simple - stop spectrum auctions and in truth remove private ownership of spectrum entirely. The FCC is an absolutely necessary government function. We need someone to say "Look, these bands are for military communication, these are for emergency services, and these can be used for broadcasting music etc.... if everyone sticks to the frequency as assigned, we won't have any problem. Fuck it up and start playing country music over the missile telemetry channel and we're going to crack some skulls, fine your ass, and take away your right to broadcast". Leaving it up to private sector greed doesn't work, just like with any other decision it becomes "He who has the most money, wins". Why are we allowing parts of the spectrum to be licensed exclusively for private use? Why not just make all spectrum public? Note, this does not mean "unregulated", but it does mean that we'd have a lot better outcome then trying to let a corrupt market decide. There is absolutely no benefit to auctions for exclusivity in the private sector. In truth, the private sector will fare better by having public access to various frequencies. Want to make the next generation long-distance WiMax-like technology? Oh, crap...well, Google bought up all the rights to the spectrum that you thought would work for you. Having the FFC say "All that analogTV open space is now available for this sort of communication usage" means that anyone who wants to build something to work on said frequency is allowed to do so. It also means that your equipment won't be totally useless if Goog-Fi is removed from "beta" because of issues, and thus anyone who built any devices (especially those paying Google for the privilege) is SOL because their hardware only works on frequencies that belong to Google for the next 20 years. Public control and access of the electromagnetic spectrum is good for the public and the benevolent private sector.

    A bill such as this is certainly an insult to the public and furthers the "Money means power" agenda of those who can't get enough of either. However, we shouldn't just fight to return things to the status quo, but rather return control of the spectrum to the public good.

    • by mybecq (131456)

      Why not just make all spectrum public?

      How do you propose to regulate it then so that everyone's phone works whenever they're in range of a cell tower? Otherwise, you haven't offered anything better than what we have now.

      • Wifi seems to work properly for that. So long as the government mandates the standards for a national cellphone system (like in Europe where cellphone plans are much cheaper) it should work.
        • Wifi only works because it is extremely short range, and even then it sucks in sufficiently crowded areas. Trying to do cell service that way would be a disaster.

          • by dlp211 (1722746)
            Yes, because the rest of the world doesn't operate mostly on 1 band (900 Mhz). You do realize there are standards for handling phone communications, it is called GSM, you may have heard of it.
          • by rabtech (223758) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:37PM (#38935631) Homepage

            Wifi only works because it is extremely short range, and even then it sucks in sufficiently crowded areas. Trying to do cell service that way would be a disaster.

            If the 700mhz, 800mhz, AWS, and PCS band frequencies were held by a regulated public utility company (e.g. Oncor for electricity in Texas) and that utility simply charged cost to deliver plus a small guaranteed profit we wouldn't have a spectrum issue at all. The carriers would compete based on backhaul, services, customer service, price, etc. The infrastructure provider would simply roll out LTE nationwide (just like they are rolling out smart meters) using a small monthly charge to pay off the upgrades.

            The way we handle cellular service in the US right now is terribly inefficient from a market perspective. If Sprint has a tower next to my house but I have an ATT phone, all that Sprint spectrum is wasted. Or if ATT has towers with plenty of capacity but Sprint's tower is overloaded it doesn't matter - the Sprint customers can't use that idle spectrum. This forces all the carriers to allocate much more frequency than they might otherwise need. Every major city has duplicated towers and equipment, wasting electricity and increasing the overall infrastructure cost.

            Further there is no incentive to change because this creates such a high barrier to entry that new competitors can't enter the market. When you don't fear new competitors, you just pass the increased cost on to your customers.

            This is clearly a situation that benefits almost no one except the carriers and only benefits them insofar as it keeps new competitors out of the market. Otherwise it is wholly inefficient and a great example of the free market creating perverse incentives.

            * Of course without any regulation of spectrum it would be effectively useless because transmissions would constantly step on each other. The idea that competitors wouldn't intentionally sabotage each other through covert means is insane... and I don't mean same-industry competitors, I mean stuff like cable companies setting up towers to explicitly jam wireless internet companies to protect their existing business. Without government regulation that is exactly what would happen.

      • Devices using the public spectrum should be forced to detect other devices in range and share the spectrum evenly with those other devices.

        Any devices not sharing the spectrum evenly would be banned.

    • by dog77 (1005249)
      I agree; I have a hard time understanding how Republicans can argue the current practice is free market. I generally believe in the principles Republicans espouse, but in practice I often do not see how policies align with principles, and this is another example.

      I have heard the arguments that service will suffer if there is not complete ownership of a given band and I think that is a reasonable argument. How will different carriers share the spectrum? I do not think the strategy used with the 2.4 GHZ
      • by RanceJustice (2028040) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @01:50PM (#38935723)

        Just because something is public owned doesn't mean its unregulated, as I noted in my original post. As others have posted, you simply make sure there are standards. GSM works really well on a handful of frequencies for instance, and even better in European and Asian nations where governments get involved. If we didn't have companies dicking around trying to monopolize a given band within the spectrum , we could easily have even more efficient use. Much of the mobile telephone communication around the world happens exclusively on a handful of frequencies (GSM) and there are no problems with "sharing" without having some private entity bitching that only THEY should be able to use the 900mhz band and won't be able to do their job otherwise - that's a USA-style greed invented issue.

        Also, applying these principles to hardware involved in broadcasting is another huge benefit we don't enjoy here in the USA. Verizon owns all the CDMA towers and ATT owns nearly all the GSM towers, allowing them to restrict access to anyone else; T-mo had to actually start putting up their OWN towers. Yes, both ATT and Verizon capitulated slightly to allow licensing access, but only to avoid anti-monopolistic laws that generally allow them to continue doing exactly what they're doing - high prices, little choice. These companies, despite the fact they are hugely subsidized with taxpayer dollars to put up the infrastructure, retain control. This hurts competition and public value. In nations where communications and information infrastructure is subsidized in a way that We The People actually own the towers (or the copper, or the fiber etc..) no matter who was contracted to build them, prices are lower, there are more standards, and performance is off the charts.

        Nearly the entire world enjoys cheaper mobile communication, largely because of strong government regulations to ensure that infrastructure benefits those taxpayers that subsidized it, standards are adhered to, and it even opens the field for competition because new players know that they won't have to license their own spectrum, build hardware for use on said spectrum, or build their own towers/broadcasting equipment that is proprietary - they can simply come in and compete without those kinds of barriers to entry. Much like how the Interstate Highway System allowed America to rise out of the dark ages of unpaved, unmetered, halfassed toll and back roads, by providing a unified, high-"bandwidth" quality system, that is implemented everywhere not just where it was profitable to do so, doing the same for information/communication infrastructure will enable us to take a big leap forward.

        Information Infrastructure is just as important as roads and dams; we've seen the problems of deregulation and putting our critical infrastructure in the hands of private interests who only do what is profitable at the moment. Lets learn from the past and do better; there's already a portion of the world proving the success so its not even broaching new territory so much as it is playing catch up with the rest of the first world. However, we can't do that unless we give up the fear of the word "public" and the idea that private industry and finance are the panacea for everything - in most cases unless they're properly regulated with a watchful, empowered entity, they're actually the plague instead.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Republicans don't care about the free market. The sooner everyone gets that the better off we'll all be. Republicans care about giving away scarce public resources at fire sale prices to corporations for profit. When they can't do that, they care about spending your tax money on privitization schemes that maximize corporate profits and provide zero accountability.

        When was the last time you heard one of these clowns say "Gee,we tried privatizing that and didn't save any money. Maybe we should try somethi

      • the reason it is hard for you to understand is because you are ignoring the fact that republicans are not for free markets, they are for cronyism markets.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      I don't even understand how your proposal would work. There is far more demand for spectrum than there is spectrum. It is a scarce resource.

      The government needs to carve it up into usable chunks. From there they can either:

      a) Give it away
      b) Sell it.

      The real advantage of (b) is that in general that is how we handle most scarce resources, we force people to pay a lot for them. Further having people buy it creates money to fund other services. You are not addressing scarcity.

      • by dlp211 (1722746)
        Do you have any citation that proves that there is more demand for spectrum then there is spectrum. Why is this an issue only in the US, and why do we have to a) give it away or b) sell it? The rest of the world is able to do just fine with multiple carriers on a single band or two of spectrum for cell phones. Why can't the US, what makes the US this special case that has made it impossible to operate on a single band. The problem is this belief that the government can't, and hasn't done anything right
      • Spectrum does have its limits, but it is not correct to apply true scarcity models toward as you would something like oil. EMS is not a commodity. One hundred years ago, the amount of the spectrum that was useful to transmit data was very limited. Today, we've progressed a long way from the first radios. We're always figuring out how to get more out of the spectrum we have, and nowhere near all of it is currently "used" at the moment. Remember "HD Radio" - adding additional channels in-between current

        • by jbolden (176878)

          Using current technology we do not know how to pack signals any more closely than they are packed. I agree we might find a technological solution if we can pack analog signals more closely together using a different structure but right now we don't know how. We are at limits of information theory. Smart people with lots of money have thought about it and that is the conclusion they have come to. 100 years from now we might have a different situation.

          As far as having the money go to the public. Auctioni

          • by spauldo (118058)

            I don't see how private ownership of spectrum is the best way at all. It's a non-renewable public resource. It's similar to how many organizations still have class A networks eating up IP space unnecessarily.

            What's wrong with the old scheme, where you license spectrum for a fee, and the FCC has regulatory control over where and how spectrum is used? It worked well enough for years. You want to transmit on such and such frequency at such and such power in a certain region of the country, you pay the fee

            • by jbolden (176878)

              Spauldo --

              I don't think you are following the thread of argument here.

              1) I was arguing for the current system.
              2) RanceJustice was arguing for a free use, that was a bit unclear.
              3) The Republicans want to remove some of the discretion from the FCC.

              When people talk about "private ownership" they mean leasing from the government. No one is suggesting outright permanent ownership because regulation is still needed to get the systems to work together.
              ___

              In terms of your idea of having people provide towers..

              • by spauldo (118058)

                When people talk about "private ownership" they mean leasing from the government. No one is suggesting outright permanent ownership because regulation is still needed to get the systems to work together.

                Ah, from the tone of other comments, I was assuming actual permanant assignments sans oversight. My bad.

                By and large what you are asking for is the current system.

                Not really. Under the system I describe, you can't both be a service provider and a tower operator. Service providers would be largely unregula

                • by jbolden (176878)

                  What do you see as the advantage of the ban over what we have now with the wholesale retail system for cell? For landlines I agree there is a huge problem with LECs, but as you mentioned that's already regulated. Honestly I'm fine with the PSTN just being a legacy system rotting over the next generation. It simply lacks far too many capabilities.

                  As for IPV4 and dual stack. I agree we are going to go to dual stack. Then of course V4 addresses get pooled while V6 are free are permanent and finally v4 be

                  • by spauldo (118058)

                    What do you see as the advantage of the ban over what we have now with the wholesale retail system for cell?

                    I'm not horribly familiar with the wholesale system, so I can't comment much on it. I prefer it because it matches the system I imagine for land lines.

                    Everyone I know uses a major carrier (AT&T with a couple on T-Mobile) these days. I remember Sprint used to not have any service outside my city limits. If that's changed, then good - there's no big deal then.

                    For landlines I agree there is a huge

                    • by jbolden (176878)

                      The system you are describing is very close to what exists for the PSTN. For the cable operators the problem is the system isn't setup that way. You and your neighbor have to get the same cable signal. The in place equipment doesn't support multiple sources. Where we do have multiple sources is on the internet consumption side. Where the cable operators act like your line providers and service providers like Hulu or Spotify sell services over their lines. The cable operators are regulated while the se

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      "The FCC absolutely needs to have the regulative authority to say"

      Is where I stopped reading, I am sure you have some very good points, and maybe I will go back and review it but the FCC's #1 problem is the fact that no one has control of it. Its some office that shows its ass every once in a while and we are left here wondering who these people are and how the fuck did they get there.

      So do they Really? need the regulative authority to say XYZ or is that just the position they have put themselves into?

      • by RanceJustice (2028040) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @03:16PM (#38936341)

        The fact that it has been managed poorly, often intentionally so over the past decade by those who WANT anything related to government or regulation to fail (ie. see: Postal service being cut-loose in terms of funding and expected to make it as a "business" while still acting under Congressional control as if they were the Department of the Post Office and thus making decisions that don't make money. That was a decision engineered specifically to make the efficient Post Office into something that private couriers could compete with, after much UPS/FedEx whingeing and whining.).

        The FCC was created as a regulatory oversight for communications. It should do that job well. The fact that it isn't is a fault of a number of decisions meant to make it appear chaotic, inefficient, and unhelpful so that everyone with a private industry solution can say "Oh we can't trust that GUBBERMINT AGENCY look at how bad they are. Look, why don't you push some taxpayer money at my/my friend's/my constituent's business to clean up the mess that government inevitably makes!". I'm not saying they're perfect, but if they were reformed into the agency they were designed to be without private industry money and lobby interference buying officials, they'd easily be able to execute their mission as intended.

  • Can never be honest during their terms of office. It's always after they retire and lose the chance to change anything. Heh, as if they really give a damn.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When you are in office, the government limits what you are allowed to say. I've had family work for the federal government and privately they'll tell me their real opinions. Publicly, they are expected to take the party line or lose their job. One member is fairly well regarded, so typically they would just cancel any potentially contraversial talks the day of. He was allowed to write papers which disagreed with Bush-era policies, but any media-related or verbal engagements got canceled (including thing

  • Limited Resources (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ettusyphax (1155197)
    Communications medium of every kind including radio spectrum should be directly provided by the government. Infrastructure for cell phones, internet, energy (arguably a kind of communications technology), terrestrial radio, and I would argue even cable and network television all should be provided using public funds by a neutral government organization. The technology for these various mediums would be developed largely by government research centers just as they are now, while the tech standards are decide
    • Re:Limited Resources (Score:4, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @02:00PM (#38935787) Homepage

      Line breaks, motherfucker, do you understand them?

    • by tchall (1146319)

      Communications medium of every kind including radio spectrum should be directly provided by the government.

      I'll just address this...

      Have you ever seen the government administer ANYTHING more efficently than a "for profit" private corporation? If I want DMV type service from my cellular provider (or any wireless/data/comm stuff) I can find always look at the coverage charts and buy from a company that doesn't actually have a working presence in my part of the map...

      I most certainly don't need that becoming the standard...

      OTOH I DO MOST CERTAINLY WANT the FCC, who is supposedly administering spectrum b

  • by fadethepolice (689344) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @12:48PM (#38935327) Journal
    Imagine if they put in a clause requiring spectrum purchasers to provide free air time to top political candidates so it is no longer necessary for them to take bribes from special interests.
  • You'd think they could just pass a law that would allow 90% of all available frequencies to be free, provided you played nice. We already have to play nice to some degree.

    I feel that when a company like Verizon pays billions of dollars for a certain frequency, its an additional tax on us ALL.

    I think we'll eventually move in that direction, but I'm not sure if we are ready just yet. I think we should take a slice of the spectrum now, and allow it to be free, provided you follow the agreed upon protocol
  • by AdamWill (604569)

    The guy's on the right side, and all, but he argues pretty weakly, notably by refusing to acknowledge and hence challenge the ideology underpinning the other side of the debate; he just paints it as nothing but terrible ideas and leaves it at that.

    Also, he seems to believe he invented wifi, or something. "I was the guy who created the idea of unlicensed spectrum" - well, no, no, you weren't. *All* spectrum is innately unlicensed. The person who came up with the idea of the government asserting control over

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