Anxiety rises over FCC's AWS-3 auction plans

Despite the mounting criticism lobbed at FCC Chairman Kevin Martin over the commission's plan to auction spectrum that would require the winning bidder to offer free wireless broadband, there is no sign the chairman plans to abandon the plan, says an article in RCR Wireless News. That means the FCC is on track to adopt final rules for the Advanced Wireless Services-3 spectrum--the 2155-2175 MHz and 2175-2180 MHz bands--as soon as next month.

The chairman apparently sees that Democrats, who control Congress, support his efforts, but leading operators and Republican lawmakers are increasing the heat in hopes of getting the FCC to reconsider its plans. They believe such a move could be a repeat of the 700 MHz D-block debacle where the swath of spectrum didn't meet the minimum bid requirement.

"We think your proposed rules could repeat this mistake by tailoring the AWS-3 spectrum largely to the business model of a single party," Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said in a letter to Martin. "Placing these conditions would result in the commission choosing winners and losers, as well as denying taxpayers the added revenue the spectrum would likely fetch if auctioned without the conditions." Of course, the single party the lawmakers are referring to is M2Z, which has been lobbying the FCC for two years with a similar plan.

The commission is proposing to combine the 2155 to 2175 MHz band with the 2175 MHz to 2180 MHz band to create a 25-megahertz swath of spectrum that would support a nationwide license. The spectrum is referred to as advanced wireless services-3 and would require the licensee to dedicate 25 percent of its network capacity to free broadband service, install a network-based Internet filtering system to block pornography and allow open access to third-party devices and applications.

Analysis from the Phoenix Center says that the FCC's proposed auction of a nationwide 25-megahertz license in the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) band would garner about $2.8 billion at auction if the license didn't come attached with these conditions.

For more:
- read RCR Wireless News

Related stories:
T-Mobile calls for delay of FCC's free wireless broadband initiative. T-Mobile story
Report: AWS-3 license would fetch $2.8B without FCC's conditions. AWS-3 story
Interview with M2Z: Free wireless broadband can work. M2Z interview
FCC looks to fast-track free wireless broadband network initiative. Wireless broadband story