FCC's new wireless bureau chief advocates making spectrum more productive

BOULDER, Colo.--With just two-and-a-half weeks on the job, Rick Kaplan, chief of the FCC's wireless telecommunications bureau, is still feeling his way around the agency. Nevertheless, he's already formed some opinions on certain hot-button topics such as making the most of the nation's finite supply of spectrum.

At an event hosted by the Atlas Institute and the University of Colorado's Silicon Flatirons Group, Kaplan said he believes one of the greatest challenges for his office is to figure out how to squeeze the most productivity out of existing spectrum. Although he would not comment directly on wholesale LTE provider LightSquared, which is embroiled in a controversy with the GPS industry over concerns that its network will interfere with GPS receivers, Kaplan said that often technology will stay the same unless it is pushed to become more efficient. "We need to make sure we aren't locking out valuable spectrum because of inefficient transmission," he said.

He also noted that GPS receivers were built at a time when it wasn't necessary to be concerned about potential interference.

Another area Kaplan wants to explore in more depth is early termination fees. He said that he thinks operators may be using ETFs to lock consumers into staying with their current provider in ways that are anticompetitive.  

When asked about the FCC's process for reviewing AT&T's (NYSE: T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, Kaplan said that while he can't talk about merits of the merger, the FCC's goal is to look at how the acquisition will serve the public interest and how it will impact spectrum license holdings in specific markets. "Our goal is to move expeditiously. We don't want to hold someone up," he said.

Kaplan replaced Ruth Milkman as WTB chief last month after Milkman left to take on new responsibilities in the Office of the Chairman.

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