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Kevin Martin is Right about DTV Spectrum Auction: Put Consumer Interests First

July 27, 2007 - 3 Comments

WASHINGTON, DC – Next Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a set of rules that will govern the auction of the 700 MHz DTV spectrum, the most important spectrum frequencies ever to be auctioned by the federal government, setting in place a process that will transform public safety communications, the way Americans watch TV, and how Americans connect to and use the Internet. As the FCC process began to wind toward its conclusion this week, the usual suspects-and some new ones-were pitching their ideas about how the rules should be written. If you’ve been spending your free time following the Michael Vick case instead of watching the 700 MHz proceeding, you may have missed Google’s efforts to propose an ever-expanding list of”open access” conditions that it says the FCC should impose on the winning bidder for part of the spectrum. It has trumpeted its desire to”commit” at least $4.6 billion of its own money in the auction if the FCC will only write the rules as Google has dictated them. Google seems to have a very different view of the wireless market than Cisco does. It apparently believes, contrary to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission, that there is insufficient competition to ensure that consumers will be treated fairly. It wants new rules that would prohibit the licensee from bundling the price of handsets and service. It wants the federal government to mandate that service providers allow access to other wireless networks. It wants the FCC to impose requirements that dictate the terms under which the winner will sell network capacity to others, as well as the terms by which the winner will interconnect with other networks.To understand just how breathtaking Google’s request is, consider this — the FCC has for many years performed extensive annual reviews of the wireless industry, and under administrations both Republican and Democrat, found the sector to be competitive. And consider this — just a few weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission advised in an exhaustive report that there is no evidence of market failure that would warrant regulation, and no reason why existing enforcement mechanisms could not be engaged in the event a network provider engaged in future bad acts. We agree. Broadband providers have not exhibited anticompetitive behavior, because a variety of market forces are acting on them to prevent them from doing so. If a problem with market-based competition arises, then regulators can address it based on the facts. We’ll see that next week when the FCC is expected to take up issues around whether the US cellular industry’s roaming practices are fair. But basing ex ante regulation on the worries of a $158 billion behemoth in the absence of any facts to support a market failure argument is simply the wrong thing to do. Regulation is a blunt and unforgiving instrument. Fortunately, it appears that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is using a different search engine to generate ideas. His draft proposal reportedly emphasizes two important principles designed to maximize consumer choice -consumers have the right to choose what devices they want to connect to the wireless network and the right to access web-based applications of their choice, subject to reasonable network management. If consumers want to use a device that their carrier doesn’t offer, they can do so provided the device will work on their carrier’s network in a non-harmful way. The draft also re-emphasizes a policy it made about the openness of the Internet more than two years ago -that consumers should be able to access websites and applications that they choose, and not be restricted to ones selected by the provider, again, subject to reasonable network management. The High Tech Broadband Coalition, in which Cisco participates, originally crafted those conditions in 2004 and urged the FCC to adopt them for all broadband platforms. On Tuesday, we’ll find out if Mr. Martin has convinced a majority of his colleagues of the wisdom of his proposal.

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  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.Elaina

  2. Wow that would be huge for the FCC to write the rules as Google has dictated them to be. Power player over the FCC? Any results on this yet?

  3. The comments in the blog about FCC Chairman Kevin Martin show careful thought. To understand the thinking of the FCC, one needs to understand that people ARE interested in college basketball. But, STILL, some can’t get it on their cable. Presumably, the mass audience is not there. One asks, “How can this be?” There is plenty of bandwidth to sell rover’s dog food on fifty channels! Doesn’t the song go, Man on the Television is telling us we have no vision of our own?”” Cable has a tough time dealing with the programming – and vice versa. KEVIN MARTIN says, “”LET THE CONSUMERS DECIDE what channels they want!” One would think, that by now, live-mass-media would have made the jump to our computer screens. This IS a Cisco blog isn’t it? Funny thing, the CORE technologies to achieve Kevin’s dream were completed in 1999. Notably: Deering’s IP Multicast, Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM), Multicast Source Discovery Protocol (MSDP), Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) and finally, a way for routers to communicate IP Multicast at the peering points – Multi-protocol BGP. In 1999 these basic tools were coded and tested on campuses around the USA. Finally, using these tools, IP Multicast could scale to Internet proportion. A way to deliver video to massive-audience-size without saturating available bandwidth. In this IP-TV dream world, even the Super Bowl could be watched in the Internet, and BEST OF ALL, KEVIN’S DREAM – CONSUMER CHOICE OF CHANNEL LINE UP! This should, and would, have been important to Cable and Telco’s operators, but there was a problem. The designers of IP Multicast took a “building blocks” approach. They didn’t design security and reliability into the CORE IP Multicast schema. More importantly, the discovery of these deficiencies by the business community occurred simultaneously with the “irrational exuberance” crash of 2000. The FED yanked the plug, and that hurt everybody in America.Reliability means something a little different to router people. It means that the IP packets are not guaranteed, rather they are sent by best effort. Fire and forget. This was not an oversight by the way; the Internet has always been built on “building blocks”. The base building block of TCP/IP is a “”fire and forget”” protocol. TCP adds the RELIABILITY to the TCP/IP protocol. TCP uses the IP “building block” to create a system that has proven to have TRULY awesome scalability. It is the WORLD WIDE web isn’t it? What is needed now, is a way to create a SECURE/RELIABLE IP Multicast that doesn’t saturate the last mile bandwidth with tons of redundant data. Pretty Good Multicast (PGM) is the only reliable IP Multicast currently available in major brand routers. It has serious problems with scalability and “last mile” issues. PGM can’t efficiently handle the relatively large amount of packet loss that occurs in the SOHO radio LAN environment, suffers from scalability issues due to the re-multicasting of missing packets, lacks a realistic congestion control mechanism, fails to offer end-user status reporting, and has no integrated security. So, in a nutshell – there it is. If we are to make a go of this, we are going to need a SMART Multicast protocol designed for mass signal distribution. We are also going to need a SIMPLE way to determine what the best-Multicast protocol is, with the last choice being tunneling.So, for Kevin Martin and the FCC, we offer SMART and SIMPLE. Give us the word and we will GIVE it to you and the world. An environment where the end user decides what channel line up they want. It’s there now Kevin, it’s your ring to grab. Any IP routing expert will tell you, secure/reliable IP Multicast is what you have been looking for, and we at World Multicast share your vision. Ian Alban Stewart – WORLD Multicast, Inc.”