Edwards takes on the FCC

This post, written by Matt Stoller, originally appeared on MyDD

This is very exciting news. John Edwards is the first Presidential candidate to ask the FCC to unlock the incredible block of spectrum coming open in the next few years. It's a bit complicated, as telecom stuff always is, but basically you have a huge slice of the public airwaves coming free, and the FCC must decide how it's going to be auctioned off. Because the legislation freeing the spectrum was a budget bill, the auction must bring in a certain amount of money, so just making the spectrum open and free isn't an option.

The rules of the auction are key, because if a wireless incumbent like AT&T, Verizon, or a cable-owned wireless carrier like Sprint can muddle up the economics of a wireless broadband network, they will.. If the FCC decides to auction the spectrum off in regional chunks, then Verizon can, say, bid up the price of the Northeast section. Since these networks only because profitable if they are national in scope, a large regional chunk controlled by an incumbent would prevent other bidders from creating an open national network.

A good FCC could ban incumbents from bidding, but that's unlikely. Still, if the bids are not anonymous, then there's possible collusion among the various incumbents. Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint do not want to really use this spectrum, they just want to keep it off the market since that increases the value of their own existing-owned spectrum. So anonymous bidding is important.

And finally, wireless net neutrality would be really useful. This basically means if you bought an iPhone you could use it on any network. Locked in pricing, bans on innovation, and total telecom control of the network would be gone if this rule were in place.

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