updated 05:05 pm EDT, Wed September 26, 2007
FCC Bowing to Verizon
The Federal Communications Commission's chairman Kevin Martin may be revising the rules for its upcoming auction of the 700MHz wireless band under pressure from Verizon, reported insiders say. The regulatory body chief is said to be considering a special declaratory ruling that would override the rules he had already set for the auction, which would insist on open access by any device and program to the frequency. Martin agreed to the unusual reversal after intensive lobbying efforts at a September 17th meeting between himself, his staff, and Verizon executives, the sources claim.
Verizon has repeatedly objected to open access under the argument that open access prevents the carrier from "differentially pricing" features and services on the network. Many have accused it of wanting to preserve an existing model that prevents customers from using devices from other providers or running software that would offer a lower-cost alternative, such as a VoIP calling program.
The company is also supported by its own lawsuit and petitions from AT&T as well as other providers, who are concerned about the terms of the auction. Some of their concerns also extended to the demand to open the frequency to public safety crews and the expensive minimum bids required for different portions of the 700MHz spectrum, which could lock out smaller buyers.
If the FCC rule regarding open access is overturned, the auction could dash hopes from Google and other companies to use 700MHz wireless for independent, wide-area Internet networking that could find its way into cellphones, computers, and other handhelds. Google is said to be developing an HTC-made cellphone but also has close partnerships with software for cellphone makers, including Apple and LG.