IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog
Jeff Eisenach (see all subjects)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Frontline, Reed Hundt and Net Neutrality

A few weeks ago, I blogged on the Cyren Call proposal to use the purported need for more public safety spectrum as an excuse to wring a few billion dollars worth of free spectrum out of the FCC to start a new cell phone company. Policymakers seem to have gotten the message this is a bad idea, and the word on the street is that Cyren Call is going nowhere.

The basic idea behind Cyren Call – tying a private agenda (making money) to a politically popular cause (improving public safety communications) – is a clever one, though, and it has spawned a small raft of imitators.

One of those is Frontline Wireless. Co-chaired by our old friend Reed Hundt, Frontline (like Cyren Call) is essentially a lobbying firm established for the sole purpose of getting the FCC to jigger the rules in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction to subsidize the startup of a new wireless carrier. The mechanics of the Frontline plan differ from Cyren Call, but the political calculus is the same: Take an idea that would be a non-starter on its own, package it as a way to improve public safety communications, and get the first responders to carry the water with the Hill and at the FCC.

But Chairman Hundt has gone Cyren Call one better: In addition to some public safety groups, he has turned Frontline into a stalking horse for the “net neutrality” crowd. Indeed, the Media Access Project, the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge (among others) yesterday filed comments with the FCC lauding the Frontline plan. Why? Because Frontline has agreed to “be generally prohibited from blocking users’ access to services or content provided by unaffiliated parties,…be obligated to offer QoS capabilities to all content, application and service providers on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis, [and] not be permitted to block the connection of terminal equipment to the network, so long as the equipment complies with relevant technical specifications [blah blah blah….].”

To top it off, the groups say, Frontline’s plan to operate as a wholesale-only carrier “will create a competitive retail market for wireless broadband services” and so “bring innovative, competitive providers into the market that would otherwise never appear.”

One hardly knows where to start. As the FCC considers all this, however, it might do well to remember the last time Mr. Hundt set out, in his own words, “to provide the new entrants to the telephone markets a fairer chance to compete than they might find in any explicit provision of the law.” It was called the CLEC meltdown.

By the way: As I disclosed in my earlier blog, I co-authored a paper critical of Cyren Call that was sponsored by the High-Tech DTV Coalition and the Consumer Electronics Association. My criticism of Frontline is pro bono.

posted by Jeff Eisenach @ 10:37 AM | Communications, Net Neutrality, Spectrum, Wireless

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly | Email a Comment |

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Cyren Call -- Do We Need Another Cell Phone Carrier?

I'm listening to a Webcast of the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing on the Cyren Call proposal.

The idea, put forward by former Nextel Vice Chair Morgan O'Brien, is for Congress to take 30 MHz of (formerly analog TV) spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which is currently scheduled to be auctioned early next, and give it to a "Public Safety Broadband Trust" that would be managed by his new company, Cyren Call. Cyren Call would lease the spectrum to commercial wireless companies, which would build out a nationwide network and use it for commercial services, but public safety agencies would get to use it more or less for free.

Cyren Call has lobbied the plan on the basis that it's needed for public safety interoperability and broadband. Not surprisingly, public safety seems to think it's a great idea too. A study I co-authored (Full disclosure: It was funded by the High Tech DTV Coalition and CEA.) shows the plan isn't likely to work, for lots of reasons. (See http://www.criterioneconomics.com/news/070206.php.)

The thing I found really striking about today's hearing is that Mr. O'Brien came right out and said his real goal here is to create a new cell phone company, which (he argues) would benefit consumers. Did I miss something, or did we just go through a round of much-needed consolidation in the wireless industry? And, if things have changed and we really do need another carrier, what's stopping Cyren Call (or anyone else) from buying the spectrum at the auction?

The history of farming the FCC for free spectrum is long and sordid. Auctions seem to have gotten the problem under control. Hopefully, Mr. O'Brien's laudable candor will help Congress to see the Cyren Call plan for what it is.

posted by Jeff Eisenach @ 11:42 AM | Digital TV, Interoperability, Spectrum

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly | Email a Comment |

Blog Main
RSS Feed   
Recent Posts
  Frontline, Reed Hundt and Net Neutrality
Cyren Call -- Do We Need Another Cell Phone Carrier?
Archives by Month
  December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  A La Carte
Add category
Advertising & Marketing
Antitrust & Competition Policy
Books & Book Reviews
Campaign Finance Law
Capitol Hill
Cutting the Video Cord
Digital Americas
Digital Europe
Digital Europe 2006
Digital TV
e-Government & Transparency
Free Speech
Generic Rant
Global Innovation
Human Capital
Internet Governance
Internet TV
Local Franchising
Mass Media
Media Regulation
Monetary Policy
Municipal Ownership
Net Neutrality
Ongoing Series
Online Safety & Parental Controls
Open Source
Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
Privacy Solutions
State Policy
Supreme Court
The News Frontier
Think Tanks
Universal Service
What We're Reading
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archive
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation