The FCC's wireless work is just beginning

Phil GoldsteinThe current FCC, led by Julius Genachowski, has had a roller coaster of a first year, and it is likely to get bumpier.

Much of the FCC's first year was consumed by the months-long task of assembling the national broadband plan, which was mandated by Congress and released in March. As commissioners have noted several times, the plan is not self-executing, and the FCC is now going through the complicated process of turning the plan's scores of recommendations into actual policy. And the FCC has already started issuing orders based on the plan, including ones intended to achieve its main wireless goal: unleashing 300 MHz of spectrum within the next five years and 500 MHz within the next 10 years.

And beyond the broadband plan, the FCC under Genachowski also has initiated numerous inquiries, including into truth-in-billing, early-termination fees and bill shock in the wireless market.

However, despite its activities, the commission has let a number of potentially important issues to wireless slip off its plate. For example, complains over handset exclusivity and debate on what to do with white spaces spectrum continue into the agency's second year.

The FCC's approach to these diverse topics--collecting data and gathering input from all interested stakeholders--has frustrated some, who wish the commission would just take more decisive action, most notably on what to do with the D Block of the 700 MHz band and net neutrality. However, as Mitchell Lazarus, a telecom lawyer and partner at the Washington-area law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, told me: "It always takes longer to do something when you get all the viewpoints, and I don't fault the commission for making the effort to hear all sides."

With all of this in mind, FierceWireless put together a special report looking at six key wireless issues--handset exclusivity, roaming, white spaces, the D Block, increasing wireless spectrum and net neutrality--currently in front of the FCC, and assessed what has happened so far and what's likely to happen next. The FCC has done a lot of work in a year, but I think its job is just beginning. --Phil