Tag Archives: eschoo

Pricing policy might be the price for mobile spectrum

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Can they meet in the middle?

The gap between the consumer expectations created by broadband service providers and delivered performance is once again drawing attention in Washington. Mobile carriers are the ones in the crosshairs this time.

Silicon Valley congresswoman Anna Eschoo says she's going to take another try at passing legislation regulating what mobile carriers have to tell customers when they sign up for service plans. She's specifically targeting pricing, terms and conditions of service and network management techniques that can have an impact on the level of service that's actually delivered.

It's an issue that's also grabbed the attention of FCC commissioners, although there's a range of opinions amongst them as to what, if anything, to do about it. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, speaking at a panel discussion at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, pointed to the fact that they received 380,000 complaints about broadband service providers last year. That and the fact that a typical U.S. family will spend something like 4% of household income on various telecommunications products and services highlight the importance they attach to it. She said the FCC's job is “inspiring confidence” amongst consumers.

“When you start limiting pricing freedom, you're going to see less of a resource, you're going to see prices go up for everybody,” commissioner Robert McDowell countered. Commissioner Ajit Pai agreed, asking “do you want the FCC to inject itself into network management issues?”

The debate is clearly split along partisan lines. McDowell and Pai are Republican appointees, Rosenworcel is a Democrat. As is Eschoo, who, despite the personal respect paid to her by her Republican colleagues, is not making much headway convincing the majority party in the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, mobile carriers in particular have a wish list for Congress and the FCC, including access to more spectrum and pre-emption of local government restrictions on cell tower construction. Getting the agreement of the Democrats controlling the Senate will likely require compromise. Eschoo is well positioned to take advantage of it.


Congresswoman Eschoo pushes for more broadband spectrum

Silicon Valley congresswoman Ann Eschoo wants to shake up the way that Washington manages and assigns spectrum. The goal is to free up a total of 500 MHz for wireless communications purposes. Much of that would come from turning over frequencies held by government agencies to public use. But some of it would come, willingly or not, from the private sector.


“We have to make freeing up spectrum a top priority,” she said at Joint Venture Silicon Valley's second annual wireless symposium, held on 2 November 2012 at Marvell Semiconductor Inc. headquarters in Santa Clara. “So many companies and broadcasters think it belongs to them. We know that the airways belong to the American people.”

Eschoo pointed to an FCC decision to move ahead with buying back television channel assignments from broadcasters on a voluntary basis and auctioning it off to wireless carriers. She said it would account for 120 MHz towards the final goal, and raise $25 billion dollars, although some of that would go to broadcasters who gave up their channel assignments.

The FCC has given itself a June 2014 deadline to hold the auctions. There are a lot of different interests to balance in the process. Wireless Internet service providers are worried that unlicensed frequencies will be sold out from underneath them.

Spectrum policy “must be balanced with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum,” Eschoo said, adding that wireless technology generates $50 billion in revenue in the U.S. every year.

Some government agencies are fighting plans to clear them off of some frequencies and turn the bandwidth over to the private sector, preferring instead to work out some way of sharing. But that idea is not very popular with wireless broadband advocates.

Eschoo believes that federal agencies can be more efficient in their use of frequencies, and wants Congress to step in and “scrub” the way the executive branch holds and uses spectrum. The bottom line, she said, is that the airwaves are an engine for job creation.