From today’s Freedom2Connect Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland.
I’m going to talk about the TV channels.
It’s pending in Congress. It’s a proceeding Michael Powell initiated, that the current chairman is sitting on. This is not about channels 52-69 – those 18 channels are going to auction, with 4 for public safety. This is about 294 of the very best megahertz of airwaves around. Most of it, at the end of 2009, will be empty. The vacancy rate ranges form 30% to 75% in small markets.
The good news is there’s now legislation with the backing of a majority of the Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee — one bill from Stevens, another from Senators Sununu, Kerry and Boxer.
There are four reasons to consider this the trunk of the elephant.
1. Experiment with the commons. Give a mixed regime
2. Rocket fuel for WISPs and munis
3. A hedge against erosion of net neutrality
4. Efficiency for pervasive connectivity
It’s our best chance for a commons, and a mixed regime combining
licensed and unlicensed will be the msot efficient, the most
competitive, the best way to promote deployment. This requires
unlicensed in a range of frequencies. Today there is very little
unlicensed spectrum in the lower frequencies, where the cost goes down
and coverage increases. Only 129 megahertz are available below 3 GHz.
If we can get it in the TV band, intact, we can create a national
specturm park. TV over the air is dieing.
The second is rocket fuel. Low frequency spectrum lowers deployment costs 3-4 times, it improves coverage.
It’s critical for the digital divide, very low cost connectivity.
In three years, AT&T’s goal is that in 3 years half their territory
will not have anything better than today’s DSL, except they’ll partner
with the Dish network and connect through a set top box. Presumably
those will be the lowest income. 40% of this territory will have 25
Mbps, but 19 walled off for video. The remaining 2-5 mbps will be
divided between a fast and slow line.
Wireless can put a work around, facillitate peer to peer, and support
net neutrality. Why go through the cell tower? It’s a billable moment.
If you don’t have a middle man you can do it direclty. It also
encourages Internet localism.
The final reason is efficiency. Spectrum efficiency is very important.
We ought to put property rights where they belong. The way you get more
spectrum use – 98% of the last spectrum use has come by cell division.
As cells get close to the person, why pay the middle man? Shouldn’t
property rights be associated with access to the airwaves, in your own
home and business? Third party property rights don’t make sense in a
world of pervasive connectivbity through low powered mesh devices.