Regulating technology Anytime, anywhere
Okay, I’m tired of it, and I suspect the remainder of the industry is also getting a little sick of the whole public debate about what should be done with the 800MHz SMR channels. Auction? Trades? Forced frequency migration? The old rules? The new rules? Wait lists? Short spacing? Etcetera.
The American Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) tells you that the alleged “consensus” proposal is a great idea, and it supports auctioning the spectrum. Small Business in Telecommunications (SBT) is opposed to auctions and to the consensus proposal. Nextel tells you that it is entitled to “regulatory parity,” and it supports the consensus. The Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA) filed comments stating that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to engage in the auctions, that Nextel has engaged in improper actions in warehousing spectrum, and that PCIA might appeal the whole thing to the courts unless the FCC gives it credit for coming up with the consensus proposal. If so, PCIA won’t appeal, and it is willing to withdraw all statements regarding the FCC’s lack of authority and forget the whole thing. Meanwhile, the Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) opposes anything that might cause industrial 800MHz spectrum to be subject to auction, but it has not directly opposed the auction of anyone else’s spectrum.
So who’s right?
Let us assume a benevolent FCC that is merely trying to serve the public interest and cares not a whit about any auction money that might arise out of selling wide-area authority on 800MHz channels. (It’s a stretch, but we’ll try.) Wouldn’t the FCC be interested in sorting out these various positions? Sure it would, and I’ve got a way to help it.
Until now, the FCC has gotten its information piecemeal, through comments and lobbying and letters from congressional types, many of whom wouldn’t know an SMR from a GTO. Some of those comments have been written by your intrepid columnist, me. In fact, a lot of those comments have been written by me while representing the interests of dozens of small, local SMR operators that oppose 800MHz auctions and the consensus. What the FCC and the industry hasn’t enjoyed is a frank, open, direct discussion of the issues.
It is my belief that such a discussion would greatly assist in sorting out the logic behind all of the varying poses which have been struck. For example, SMR WON can explain why it opposed the auctions before, but thinks it’s a great idea now if local operators can first negotiate some common spectrum away from Nextel. The FCC can explain why it first believed that forced frequency migration was a bad idea, but later changed its mind. PCIA can explain why adoption of the consensus proposal suddenly cures all of the problems the FCC has regarding its authority to engage in 800MHz auctions. Maybe Nextel can identify some other company that is logically positioned to bid at any future auction.
Once flushed out into the open, all of these matters can be laid before the industry, which can then decide who’s right and who’s just blowing smoke. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to finally get a public airing of these matters? I know I’d show up–just to see whether certain parties would repeat in public what is being peddled behind closed doors.
My invitation I am willing to represent the anti-auction, anti-consensus folks in a debate with all other persons, groups, associations, and organizations that support either auctions or the alleged consensus. Specifically, I invite Alan Shark, Jay Kitchen, Morgan O’Brien, Reed Hundt, and a representative of SMR WON to meet me anytime, anywhere, to debate the merits of the various positions. Let’s see; that’s 5-to-1 odds. I like my chances.
Here are my conditions: a neutral party for administrating the debate; a site announced well in advance so that members of the industry can attend and witness the debate; and industry members able to ask questions of the participants.
How about the FCC meeting room? It’s convenient for the participants and it’s got the facilities for taping the debate. I would also invite members of Congress to attend and get a clearer picture of the matter.
Within the confines of an honest debate, the FCC staff and members of the public can finally confront the differences between these groups and determine why persons are so impassioned in support of their positions. The public can also tell whether parties’ claims regarding each other’s motivations are accurate and whether any articulated plans will reach the objectives put forth by a proponent.
Motorola’s participation As I think about it, we might wish to invite someone from Motorola to join the party. After all, if I’ve got this thing figured out, Motorola’s interests are on the line as well. Consider: Motorola announced that it is willing to give Nextel financing for about $120 million in equipment, when it knows that Nextel’s bottom line keeps moving ever downward. Why? Could it be that Motorola is hoping that Nextel will get the contiguous spectrum for operation of channels on Motorola’s equipment, using Motorola mobile units and software? Then, when Nextel makes its move to join its spectrum with cellular carriers, the merger will occur employing the Motorola standard equipment used by Nextel’s system. Good night, Qualcomm, and others in the race to set digital cellular standards. Motorola’s end run through ESMR just carried the day–and the billions of bucks in licensing fees and equipment.
Okay, I’m just guessing there, but the above scenario would explain how Nextel’s agenda before the FCC is able to keep rolling on, even though the Commission has to realize that Nextel is not the best business partner. If the Commission was going up against the lobbying might of Motorola to forward Schaumburg’s cellular objective, that would be a much bigger hurdle to step over on the way to the public interest. Make sense? Maybe.
Rumormongers and other beasts Personally, the rumors and innuendoes that have oozed in the cracks of this proceeding have been the most comical to me. One rumor is that I am getting rich off of this proceeding. Let me help you with that one. My law firm has lost money on this deal–a lot of money–more than Nextel’s offering for five-channel SMR systems these days. Second, some people have claimed that our participation is nothing more than a way to attract new clients. It isn’t, but it has. Some people like hiring attorneys with principles. Go figure! Finally, some people have said we can’t win on behalf of our clients. I suspect that these same people bought Nextel stock when it was at 55.