Exclusivity inspired Smart Phones

Small cellphone operators want Congress or the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit larger carriers from becoming exclusive providers of popular handsets, like the Apple iPhone (AT&T), Blackberry Storm (Verizon Wireless), Palm Pre (Sprint) and Samsung Behold (T-Mobile). John E. Rooney, President and CEO of United States Cellular Corp., testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week: These arrangements harm consumers in rural areas and decrease competition nationwide and do not enhance innovation. Let’s examine these arguments. Rural Consumers Rooney bemoans the fact that many rural residents of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming are not served by AT&T network facilities while Victor H. Read More ›

Events overtaking net neutrality

The conventional Beltway wisdom would be that net neutrality legislation should have a real chance now with the election of President-Elect Obama and strengthened Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. But there are two recent developments which make the case for net neutrality regulation less compelling. Free Airwaves The Federal Communications Commission approved the use of unlicensed wireless devices to operate in broadcast television spectrum on a secondary basis at locations where that spectrum is open, i.e., the television “white spaces.” In other words, a vast amount of spectrum will soon be available to provide broadband data and other services, and the spectrum will be free. George Mason University Professor Thomas W. Hazlett notes that [S]ome 250 million mobile Read More ›

One in five households could be wireless-only

Nielsen reports that 20 million U.S. households no longer have fixed-line phone service and rely solely on cell phones. By the end of this year, one in five households could be wireless-only. ‘Landline wireless substitution may just be the start,’ says LeBreton. ‘As wireless data networks improve and speeds become more and more competitive with broadband, some consumers may cut the Internet cord, as well, favoring wireless data cards and other access through carrier networks.’

Google’s bids

Communications Daily ($) cited my recent post comparing Google’s limited objectives for the 700 MHz auction with the expansive objectives it outlined to the Federal Communications Commission last summer, and it included the following reaction to my comments from Richard Whitt of Google: Whitt said in response that Haney had misread his company’s comments from last summer. “We consistently have argued that the open access license conditions adopted by the FCC would inject much-needed competition into the wireless apps and handset sectors, but would not by themselves lead to new wireless networks,” he said Monday. “Only if the commission had adopted the interconnection and resale license conditions we also had suggested — which the agency ultimately did not do — Read More ›

Back to spectrum giveaways

In 1993 Congress substituted auctions for the deplorable practice of giving away valuable spectrum to well-connected commercial entities. Lawmakers who think spectrum is a valuable public resource for which the taxpayers should be compensated need to wake up for a minute. FCC rulemaking could render the remaining assets worthless, distort wireless competition and contribute to the unfortunate perception of the FCC as a candy store. Google has made it clear that it plans to weigh in at the FCC as it determines how to re-auction the D-block from the recent 700 MHz auction, and that it wants to open the white spaces between channels 2 and 51 on the TV dial for unlicensed broadband services. Anna-Maria Kovacs, a regulatory analyst, Read More ›

What’s up, Walt?

I enjoy Walt Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal personal technology reviews as much as the next person, but his latest jeremiad against U.S. mobile phone companies is way off the mark. Mossberg calls the mobile carriers “Soviet ministries” because they offer two-year service contracts, lock their phones during this contract period, and generally take a “walled garden” approach to content. But the facts of the U.S. wireless industry are striking: — Ours is the most competitive wireless market in the world, with the top two players accounting for just 51.5% of subscribers. Some of us wouldn’t mind if our market were more concentrated. — Prices have fallen some 85% since 1994, from around $.46 per minute to $.07 per minute. — Read More ›