Monday, May 28, 2007

Will The Failure of FCC Spectrum Auctions Impact 700 MHz?


According to this May 2006 paper from the Center for American Progress (quote) "The Federal Communications Commission’s auctioning of spectrum licenses is a failure. The auctions have been subject to collusion and manipulation by big business, and as a result have failed to meet legislative guidelines." (end quote)

(Quote) "Analysis of the last ten years of FCC spectrum auctions reveals that these auctions have met neither the standards nor the expectations expressed by Congress in their authorization. They do not facilitate the development of robust markets or meet the needs of the broader public interest. Instead these auctions, as they have been conducted, appear to serve the narrow interest of dominant actors in the telecommunications industry. They have systematically resulted in market concentration and the growth of the oligopolistic market power of major actors in the telecommunications industry. They have been pervious to manipulation by tacit collusion among bidders in ways which no minor amendment of the auction process could possibility remedy. Even the often made argument that FCC spectrum auctions maximize revenue fails in the face of both FCC mispricing of licenses, reflected in the large number of licenses which fail to be auctioned because no bidder meets the reserve price, and substantial evidence that strategic behaviors like preemptive bidding can guarantee better capitalized bidders licenses at consistently lower prices than their competitors. What has principally driven the adoption of spectrum auctions by the FCC and Congress has been ideologically-libertarian economic theory, captured in simplistic models which ignore inconvenient facts. Game theory is a powerful tool for analysis of economic behavior. However, a game-theoric model is only as good as its assumptions. Assumptions about information, bidder resources, risk-acceptance and -aversion, and the structure of bidder preference all matter, because they imply things about how the real world operates. All modeling is along a continuum between analytical tractability and empirical verisimilitude: the more mathematically tractable the model is, the less it resembles the real thing being modeled. It is for this reason that social scientists frequent evaluate and refine such models through experiments to see whether an analytically tractable model captures what really matters about the thing it models. The past ten years of FCC spectrum auctions have amounted to such an experiment, and the experiment demonstrates that the models on the basis of which Congress and the FCC were persuaded to adopt spectrum auctions fail dramatically in their prediction of real-world outcomes. When tested by the actual performance of such auctions, the chasm between the outcomes predicted by theory and the outcomes observed is immense. In sacrificing the public interest in pursuit of hypothesized market efficiencies and greater revenue we have arrived at the worst of both worlds: FCC spectrum auctions neither serve the public interest nor realize the promised economic efficiencies and revenue maximization touted by their advocates." (end quote)

(Quote) "Until the FCC can demonstrate that it can conduct auctions in the public interest, Congress should halt the ongoing plans to auction licenses to the public spectrum." (end quote)

Kinda makes one question just how small business entrepreneurs, women, minorities, and public safety/first responders will fare in the up-coming - and perhaps most important auction of all - that of the 700 MHz spectrum.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Wireless Stakeholder Comments in 700 MHz Public Safety Proceeding

For your Memorial Day weekend reading pleasure, here's a compilation of all 300+ Comments made to the FCC by industry stakeholders in the 700 MHz Public Safety broadband proceedings (Dockets 96-86 & 06-229)....and a link to the 9th NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) for your attentive review -- offered in an effort to assist readers in learning more about why spectrum matters.

By the way, Reply Comments are due May 30th unless the Commission extends the date...if you have been thinking about "expressing yourself", now's the time to do so. You can file them here.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Invitation to the Spectrum Matters Discussion Group

Advancements in wireless (RF or radio) communications and information technology over the last decade have unleashed a flood of new products, services, provocative ideas, intriguing questions, political rhetoric, and marketing posturing - all of which has created a fair amount of confusion and growing concern by many as to whether current FCC and NTIA spectrum allocation, regulation, use, and rules enforcement policies are 'keeping up with the times'. As one might expect, this hullabaloo has led to increasing calls by wireless stakeholders for something called "spectrum reform" that we're hearing more and more about each day.

The Spectrum Matters discussion group focuses on news, information, opinion, responsible debate, and commentary related to the real or perceived social, economic, and technical benefits (or consequences) that may be realized by updating legacy and/or implementing new wireless spectrum management policy to effectively address these important issues.

Topics and discussions are targeted towards business, educational, industrial, enterprise, public safety, local, state, regional, federal government and similar types of PROFESSIONAL wireless mobile communication users who depend on access to radio spectrum in their daily activities and who want to learn more about how and why wireless spectrum matters can, will, or already have had an impact on them.

If you have an interest in wireless communications in general and spectrum issues in particular, please join us. Your ideas, experiences, opinions, and questions are welcome. Membership requires a response to a New Member Confirmation Request emailed to you during the sign-up process.


Friday, May 18, 2007

"Next-Gen" Wireless Public Safety Communications

This May 2007 paper "Toward A Next-Generation Network for Public Safety Communications" (37 pages) authored by Dale N. Hatfield and Philip J. Weiser with the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado School of Law is in part based on a two-day conference sponsored by the CTIA in April that brought together leaders of public safety and commercial wireless organizations - wireless user camps that have historically disagreed on subjects involving spectrum allocation (700 MHz issues are the most notable and recent debates) and the different and unique communications needs of each other.

“It was remarkable that the participants were able to reach a basic consensus on a number of key points in a debate where overheated rhetoric has sometimes obscured important common ground and concerns,” the report states, noting public safety’s pressing need for a next-generation network and a new policy model. With some continuing effort and hard work by both the commercial wireless and public safety communities, perhaps the political rhetoric and posturing can be replaced with a more responsible level of mutual understanding and consensus that will work for both groups, but more importantly, the general public.

Part I of the paper provides technological background, including the evolution of modern public safety communications systems and their attendant technological and operational limitations. It also addresses the technological requirements, architecture and possible constraints associated with a next generation network.

Part II looks at strategies for implementing a next generation architecture. It begins with a description of legacy regulatory strategies and proceeds to analyze possible policy strategies for a next generation network (along with its associated challenges and opportunities).

Part III sets out key concerns for the transition period, including working within the current technological framework, building a sustainable funding base, and establishing clear requirements and standards.

Finally, Part IV offers a short conclusion, one of which is that a public-private partnership arrangement might be the most realistic avenue to build and maintain a nationwide, next-generation wireless broadband network for public safety.

Well worth a read for anyone seriously involved, interested, or concerned about public safety spectrum matters.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Public Safety Communications - Time For A New Approach

Public Safety first-responder communication problems have been with us for quite sometime. However, new provocative proposals suggesting that the FCC review current communications and wireless spectrum allocation and management policies - ranging from public/private spectrum partnerships to allocating a larger portion of spectrum to public safety - are now being hotly debated by stakeholders on all fronts.

At a March 2007 Congressional Seminar titled "Public Safety Communications: Time for a New Approach" hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, many of these proposals were discussed to provide policymakers with a complete overview of policy options. Complete statements from the panelists and questions from attendees can be found in the event transcript, but here's a general overview of the seminar:

Michael Calabrese, Vice President and Director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, identified four faulty assumptions about public safety communications that must be reversed in order to meaningfully reform spectrum policy. First, that public safety requires exclusive spectrum and proprietary equipment. Second, that commercial and existing wireless networks should not be used for public safety purposes. Third, that local jurisdictions should not be subjected to national standardization. Finally, that policies should still focus on narrowband voice applications. He also suggested, "the most important reform would push public safety to share spectrum and multi-purpose broadband networks with both commercial and public WiFi networks."

Jeffrey Eisenach, Chairman of Criterion Economics, expressed concern that new public safety spectrum proposals could derail the carefully negotiated digital television transition, which will free up spectrum for public safety and other purposes. Eisenach also took issue with social policies, such as commercial buildout requirements, contained in some new public safety communications proposals. "If we're going to impose encumbrances in that spectrum, it ought to be focused on public safety, not on industrial policy and a... social agenda, which really doesn't have any place in this debate," he explained.

Michael Gallagher, Partner at Perkins Coie, LLP, reviewed current government action in the public safety space, including the roles of the Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security. Gallagher also stressed the importance of interoperability for first responder communications. He explained that "new networks must be regional, digital, interoperable networks. They can no longer be so independent, certainly they shouldn't be analog," he continued. "We have to be moving into an environment where these are shared architectures."

Steven Jones, Executive Director of the First Response Coalition, described a new study issued by his organization which examined state level interoperability efforts. Jones stated that the report, "arrived at the following conclusions: One, funding remains the major hurdle to achieving interoperability. Two, first responder communications systems are being created and upgraded with new technologies without large spectrum allocations. And three, there is a distinct need for adherence to technical standards to better insure equipment deployed across jurisdictions in compatible."

Janice Obuchowski, Chairman of Frontline Wireless, discussed Frontline’s FCC proposal that would allocate 12 megahertz of spectrum for public safety with the option of pre-empting commercially used spectrum. "I, in fact, think what the FCC has advanced, what many people in this room are advancing, is something approaching a going forward vision that we... build a network, a nationwide network that public safety can use and that innovators can use on fair and equal terms."

Charles Werner, EFO/CFO and Fire Chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department, voiced support for a "public safety broadband trust" and argued against confining use of the newly released spectrum to new technologies. Werner explained, "While all of you say that none of the spectrum should be given to old technology, I can tell you there are departments today that need spectrum, because of congestion on what they have, especially in the metropolitan cities. This restriction in place would tie our hands to be able to solve the problems that we need to solve today."

As one can see after reading the full transcript of this seminar, spectrum matters are of great concern to many for a variety of reasons; it might be wise to be paying closer attention as to why since the subject goes much deeper and impacts more than just Public Safety.