Category Archives: Wireless Internet

AT&T Goes Around FCC with Aloha 700Mhz

aloha.jpg Why wait for the auction when there’s another way?
AT&T announced today that it has purchased 12MHz of spectrum in the prime 700MHz spectrum band from privately-held Aloha Partners for close to $2.5 billion. Aloha purchased the spectrum in Federal Communications Commission auctions held during 2001 and 2003, but hasn’t done much with the licenses since the auctions ended.

The licenses to the spectrum cover around 196 million residents of the US and 72 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, including the ten largest markets in the US. AT&T isn’t divulging much in the way of specifics for the bandwidth, other than saying that the company will use it for voice, data, and video. “Aloha’s spectrum will enable AT&T to efficiently meet this growing demand and help our customers stay connected to their worlds,” said Forest Miller, AT&T’s group resident for corporate strategy and development.

AT&T surprises with beachfront 700MHz spectrum purchase By Eric Bangeman, ars technica, October 09, 2007 – 12:29PM CT

And since Aloha got this batch of 700Mhz spectrum in a previous auction with no open access strings attached, AT&T can thumb its nose at Google about that. For the particular geographical locations that Aloha covers.


FON: Cringely to Spain to Britain to U.S.?

logofon.png Cringely claims credit for wireless craze:
Several years ago I wrote a column describing a system I had thought up for sharing Internet hotspots that I called WhyFi. Among the readers of that column were some entrepreneurs in Spain who went on to start the hotspot sharing service called FON, which now has more than 190,000 participating hotspots. Those Spaniards have been quite generous in attributing some of their inspiration to my column. And now this week FON signed a deal with British Telecom that promises to bring tens of thousands more FON hotspots to the UK and beyond. This isn’t FON’s first deal with a big broadband ISP — they already have contracts with Speakeasy and Time Warner Cable in the U.S. among others — but it is one of the biggest and points to an important transformation taking place in the way people communicate.

You Can’t Get There From Here: The myth of bandwidth scarcity and can Team Cringely really make it to the Moon? By Robert X. Cringely, Pulpit, PBS, October 5, 2007

Much like really fast broadband in Japan, FON is an American idea that people in another country adopted and ran with. Continue reading

Google v. Verizon v. FCC + Lobbyists

lock.png Verizon is suing the FCC about the watered down rules the FCC passed recently. Now Google has filed a complaint with the FCC about that. And apparently Verizon has been having private meetings with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Could this be one source of the illegal leaks the GAO finds the FCC providing to lobbyists?
While Verizon’s court case proceeds through the legal system, the company’s competitors have grown unhappy with the way that Verizon has handled its FCC lobbying. Frontline Wireless has gone so far as to ask the FCC to bar Verizon from the auction because Verizon has allegedly not disclosed some of its lobbying contacts with the agency quickly enough or in enough detail.

Despite Verizon’s reticence to spell out exactly what it has been talking about with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in private meetings, Google believes that it has pieced the conversation together. Google’s understanding is that Verizon wants the FCC to impose the open access requirements only on the network, not on the devices. That is, Verizon could still sell handsets that are locked and controlled by the company, but its network would have to be open to unlocked handsets from any operator.

According to Google’s new public statement on the issue, “From our perspective, this view ignores the realities of the U.S. wireless market, where some 95 percent of handsets are sold in retail stores run by the large carriers. More to the point, it is simply contrary to what the FCC’s new rules actually say.” Those rules focus on customer freedom to access content and applications from any device.

In a filing with the FCC, Google asks the agency to stick to its original plan. The company points out that while the open access rules might make the spectrum less attractive to Verizon (and thus might bring in less money at auction), the rules actually make it “more attractive, not less” to Google.

Google attacks Verizon’s attempt to water down 700MHz “open access” rules, By Nate Anderson, ars technica, October 04, 2007 – 11:11AM CT

Silly Google! Verizon is part of the incumbent duopoly, and you’re not!


Heck of a Job, Stickler

Richard Sticker ((ABC 4 News))
What practical difference does it make when a president appoints political commissars as heads of departments and agencies, enforcing ideologicallines instead of doing their job?
Also coming to light, is the fact that Stickler’s nomination to head the mine administration was twice rejected by congress and rejected when republicans were still in charge. Rejected reportedly by senators who were concerned about Stickler’s safety record when he operated mines. After his nomination was twice rejected by the Senate, President Bush gave Richard Stickler the mine safety job with a recess appointment. That’s a presidential appointment made when congress is not in session.

Finally, congressional investigations and hearings are now expected to look at a key provision of federal mining law, one which requires the U.S. Government to be the main communicator when an accident occurs. ABC News now notes it took the mine safety administration two days to take public control of the Crandall Canyon Mine. ABC also adds, “Others were irate that [mine owner Bob] Murray was allowed to publicly predict success and contradict MSHA itself while agency officials quietly looked on.”

Federal mine safety official’s credentials questioned, Chris Vanocur, ABC 4 News, Last Update: 8/20 2007 8:00 pm

Dead people in mines. Dead people in Hurricane Katrina. Postal rate hikes for small publications. Wireless spectrum handed over to a few big companies. And of course massive consolidation of first mile Internet ISPs in the hands of companies that aren’t delivering on their promises and that indulge in repeated political censorship while cooperating with the government in wiretapping.

The stakes going forward are even higher, including economic competitiveness, control of information, and political discourse and with it the survival of a political system.

At least the traditional media finally noticed the problem with the appointment of the Mine and Health Safety Administrator. Imagine if we had more proactive investigative media that might have actually noticed his appointment when it happened. And imagine if we had none, which is a very real possibility with continuing media consolidation and increasing control over the Internet by a very small number of companies.


700Mhz: Duopoly As Usual

710_1_1a_CARRIE_ANN_BAADE_The_Devil_is_In_the_Details,10_x_17..jpg Susan Crawford reads the 700Mhz auction rules and confirms the worst:
1. Those Carterfone protections don’t mean too much. The no-locking, no-blocking requirements are hedged in by substantial limitations: the winning licensee will be able to lock and block devices and applications as long as they can show that their actions are related to “reasonable network management and protection,” or “compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.” In other words, as long as the discrimination can be shown to be connected (however indirectly) to some vision of “network management,” it will be permitted. (Discrimination “solely” for discrimination’s sake is prohibited, but that’s not too difficult to avoid.)

Many, many devils in the details: 700 MHz rules, by Susan, from Susan Crawford blog, 13 Aug 2007

So it’s ILECs vs. CLECs, round two. Guess who’ll win?

And even supposedly Cmr. Copps “grudgingly accepted” these rules. Seems to me we need a whole new FCC, so we can get some real rules of the road.

And what we really need is some real competition.


French FttH

gauthey_tate_voisin-ratelle.jpg In the U.S., it’s difficult for a municipality to put up a wireless Internet service even if it’s a disaster zone and the telco hasn’t gotten its POTS service back up, because the duopoly doesn’t want the competition. Meanwhile, in France:
Municipalities, cities, states, territories and regions are driving the French municipal (wireless and wired) broadband uptake as newly authorized by law. A new article of French “code général des communications” passed in June 2004 (law ref code is L-1425-1) gives these public entities the following rights :
  1. build, subsidize and develop “passive” telecom infrastructure and provide/transfer them to carriers or independent local users.
  2. build open networks on a given territory and provide/transfer them to a territorial carrier.
  3. operate open telecommunications networks in respect of regulations.
  4. provide telecommunications services to end users.

Municipal broadband in France, by Esme Vos, MuniWireless, at 7:42 PM on September 5, 2005

The municipality does have to demonstrate that there isn’t already a similar service, but given the “open networks” aspect, that shouldn’t be difficult. Could this have something to do with why France is ahead of the U.S. in Internet connectivity and speed?

Apparently so:

Nowadays there are over a hundred projects, small and big. One famous one One famous one is the plan to do FttH in Hauts-de-Seine, the department chaired by Mr Sarkozy until he became President. Sarkozy was the man personally proprosing the FttH roll out in Hauts de Seine.

Some French muni BB inspiration to Maybe Rep’s Boucher & Upton? Dirk H. van der Woude, Interesting People, 5 August 2007

He points out that picture FCC Commisioner Tate and ARCEP Commissioner Gauthey have met, as in the picture. Perhaps soon we’ll get a U.S. president who might be influenced by French president Sarkozy on this subject.


Crack Google?

robberbarons.jpg Cringely gets anxious over Google’s floor bid for 700Mhz. After pointing out that Verizon and AT&T coming around to Kevin Martin’s leaked counterproposal of watered down “open access” rules, he says:
Look who Google is up against — all the largest Internet service providers in the U.S. Google will not win this even if they win the auction, because the telcos and cable companies are far more skilled and cunning when it comes to lobbying and controlling politicians than Google can ever hope to be. The telcos have spent more than a century at this game and Google hasn’t even been in it for a decade. And Google’s pockets are no deeper than those of the other potential bidders.

Is Google on Crack?: Eric Schmidt bets the ranch on wireless spectrum, Robert X. Cringely, Pulpit, 27 July 2007

Cringely is missing the point about who Google is up against. These outfits have not been the largest ISPs for more than a century. They’ve been telephone companies for more than a century. And being around for a long time isn’t necessarily a sure win. Look at the Vatican; it’s been around for two thousand years, and it’s managed to lose most of its traditional heartland of Europe. Sure, Google is fragile, in some senses even more fragile than Microsoft, as Cringely points out. But even Microsoft is losing market share from IE to an open source browser, Firefox. Google, as a proponent of open source that actually understands it, has a fair chance here. The incumbent duopoly telcos aren’t really in the Internet business; Google is.

Maybe Cringely’s right that Google alone couldn’t win the auction. But Google and Sprint possibly could. Sure, Sprint is a phone company, too. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to side with the rest if it scents profit. Maybe with a little help from Apple.

Let’s hope that’s what Google is really up to, rather than expecting to get Martin to change the rules and then wait for AT&T to deliver another striped bass.

I also don’t think Cringely is taking into account the stakes here. Continue reading

Google FCC Wireless Auction

Schmidt.jpg Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote to FCC Chair Kevin Martin Friday saying Google will commit the reserve price of $4.6 billion to the 700Mhz wireless spectrum auction if it goes forward with four open access conditions Google proposed in a July 9 letter. The four conditions are:
  • Open applications: Consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
  • Open devices: Consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
  • Open services: Third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
  • Open networks: Third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee’s wireless network.
Google Intends to Bid in Spectrum Auction If FCC Adopts Consumer Choice and Competition Requirements, Press Release, Google, 20 July 2007 The Google 20 July letter actually says a minimum of $4.6 billion, so it will be interesting to see if Google bids up from there, not to mention who tries to outbid Google. Continue reading

700Mhz and Competition

markey.jpg Positions on future uses of the 700Mhz spectrum formerly occupied by analog TV aren’t just for presidential candidates anymore. Congress is hearing arguments:
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the subcommittee that handles telecommunications and Internet issues, urged the FCC to “seize this opportunity to create an open-access opportunity for wireless service in this auction.” He added that wireless carriers are “exerting far too much control over the features, functions and applications that wireless gadget makers and content entrepreneurs can offer directly to consumers.”

FCC Auction Should Allow for Open Wireless Network, Say Lawmakers, By Kim Hart, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, July 12, 2007; Page D08

Some search, VoIP, and computer companies say auctioning off some of that spectrum with open access requirements would promote competition, while telcos claim it would hurt their investments, stifle competition, and reduce revenues to the government from the auction. I think it may well reduce direct government auction revenues, but the economic benefits of real competition should be worth it. You’d think the nominally free market supporting telcos would agree with that. Continue reading

Presidential Spectrum

John Edwards A presidential candidate sends a letter to the FCC about reallocating 700Mhz spectrum currently used by analog TV:
In recent years, the Internet has grown to touch everything and transform much of what it touches. It’s not the answer to everything, but it can powerfully accelerate the best of America. It improves our democracy by making quiet voices loud, improves our economy by making small markets big, and improves opportunity by making unlikely dreams possible.

Edwards Calls On FCC To Make Internet More Available And Affordable, John Edwards ’08, 30 May 2007

The letter goes on to propose sensible concrete actions. So not only is this letter remarkable in that a presidential candidate sent it, but also that what he writes makes sense.


PS: Seen on Art Brodsky.