Tales of the Sausage Factory

D Block Drama Erupts! NENA Breaks Ranks! Wireless Carriers At War! Oh, the Humanity!

Yes, for policy wonks in the summer, this is high drama. Once upon a time, before the 700 MHz auction, we used to have two very clear groups of stakeholders in spectrum policy land. We had public safety on one side and commercial wireless carriers on the other. (We also had us public interest folks, but no one — especially in the Wireless Bureau — gave a crap about us.) While these two groups might disagree internally, they solidified into utterly united and utterly opposing camps when confronting each other — regarding the battle for spectrum as a zero sum game with each side trying to wrestle every last MHz out of the other one.

But the 700 MHz changed all that. It cemented the spectrum advantage of AT&T and Verizon over all other carriers, breaking the commercial world into “AT&T and Verizon” and “carriers who need backhaul, roaming agreements, and special access — all of which they buy from AT&T and Verizon.” And it fractured consensus in the public safety community by creating the enormous loose end known as the “D Block.” As readers may recall (and if they don’t, you can check out my extensive coverage of the 700 MHz auction) the D Block was the private part of a public/private partnership where a private entity would bid and then build out the network, then enter into a sharing agreement with the public safety block. Sadly, for various reasons I will not rehash here, this didn’t work out.

And now, just when it looked like public safety was lining up behind AT&T and Verizon to lobby Congress to reallocate the D Block entirely to public safety, all Hell breaks loose. The “not Verizon and AT&T” wireless carriers have introduced a counter proposal to take back the 12 MHz on the public safety side of the partnership and auction the whole 22 MHz for commercial use as one, unpaired block. And they have received the backing, sort of, of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

What drama to greet the arrival of Chairman Genachowski and the finally fleshed out full FCC! Commercial wireless carriers at war! Public safety in disarray! Spectrum brother against spectrum brother in the ultimate spectrum policy smackdown!

I analyze the possible deals, the potential winners and losers, and my guesses on odds for success below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

If Both Survive the Lirpa , We Will Continue With The Ahn'woon.

Alright Net Neutrality fans, policy wonks, and children of all ages. Bring your quatloos and tune your internet browsers to Von TV on March 11 at 2 p.m. to see THE ULTIMATE STEEL CAGE DEATHMATCH TAG-TEAM POLICY SMACKDOWN ON NETWORK NEUTRALITY!!!!

Yes! For the edification, enlightenment, and entertainment of the policy world, I, yr hmbl obdn’t blogger, with Comcast Complaint Co-Counsel Marvin Ammori of Free Press, will square off against Progress and Freedom Foundation President Ken “the Assassin” Ferree and Phoenix Center President Lawrence “Terminator” Spiwak on the burning issue of network neutrality. As House Subcommittee Chariman Ed Markey (D-MA) once said: “This is no country for old broadband.” And I, personally, can assure you, There Will Be Blood. (If by “blood” we mean some “civil but very intense, passionate debate”).

“Not since the last Latke v. Hamentashen Debate has so much intellectual fire power, passion, and eloquence been mustered in one place on a vital issue of public policy.” — Random Policy Person

“Great background while multitasking.” — Overworked FCC staffer.

“A fantastic series of debates for a fantastic series of tubes.” –Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

So don’t you dare miss the action! Tuesday, March 11, 2 p.m., live on VonTV and absolutely free. I shall float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, as I and my co-counsel Ammori, make mincemeat out of Spiwak and Ferree!

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

They Chose to Praise Spectrum Ownership When They Should Have Buried It

The Cato Institute a solid bastion of neo-conservative economic thought (i.e., I disagree with them, but they aren’t industry sock puppets) has released a paper by Dale Hatfield and Phil Weiser on the difficulty in creating a property regime in spectrum property.

This should have been a hard-hitting indictment of the “property school” and its belief (as advocated by such champions as Evan Kwerel) that a transition from the current “comand and control” allocation to a property rights regime offers a quick and easy way to get new spectrum services deployed, and we should therefore move as quickly as possible to adopt the “property” model instead of the “commons” model. (See my now old but still vaguely useful primer on the spectrum reform debate if you are wondering what these terms mean.)

Instead, it assumes that the benefits of a property regime are so obvious and well-proven that, regardless of the burden of devising a property regime, spectrum reformers need to “stay the course” and keep slogging ahead. After all, if we question the value of property rights in spectrum, the info commies win.

I happen to like both Dale and Phil and usually agree with what they write. In fact, I happen to agree with the central tenet of this paper: devising a true property-rights regime for spectrum raises more problems than advocates would like to believe. But I draw a rather different conclusion from their work. My conclusions (and a few trademark TotSF snarky observations on some of the hand-waving and rhetorical tricks used in the article) below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Important Conference on Spectrum Policy and Community Networking

I’m actually cutting short my vacation to Pennsic to give the Keynote address at the 2004 National Summit for Community Wireless Networks on August 20-22, 2004. This conference is a meeting of folks deploying community wireless networks, policy wonks like yours truly, and anyone else who cares about revolutionizing spectrum policy and setting networks free. the goal is to educate each other and develop ways to move forward in a coherent movement that promotes positive spectrum management reforms. The announcement is reprinted below. Please circulate widely. Hope to see you all there.

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