NTIA head opposes AWS-3 auction stipulations

As the FCC prepares to vote on the controversial AWS-3 auction Dec. 18, President Bush's top telecom policy adviser, Meredith Attwell Baker, is disagreeing with the stipulations FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to place on the licensee. Martin wants to require the winning bidder to offer up 25 percent of its network capacity for free broadband service, filter out pornography and provide service to at least 95 percent of the U.S. population within a 10-year timeframe.

"Auctions without price or product mandates create a level playing field. Restrictions and conditions on spectrum use, however well intentioned, are not the most effective or efficient way to encourage development of services or to assist underserved areas," stated Baker, acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in a Nov. 18 letter to Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas.). "Subject to appropriate government rules to prevent harmful interference, government should rely on market forces to determine the best use of spectrum."

Moreover, T-Mobile and other commercial operators remain concerned about possible interference the AWS-3 band could pose to network operators in the AWS-1, where T-Mobile owns a significant amount of spectrum. The FCC said its own engineering tests show interference isn't a problem, while T-Mobile begs to differ and could file suit if the FCC moves ahead with the plan.

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