Barton, Upton Ask FCC To Reject Frontline


A Republican-heavy but bipartisan group of 16 members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee have asked the FCC to reject Frontline's public-private spectrum proposal.

The FCC has to auction 60 mHz of spectrum in the 700 mHz band by next January as part of the transition to digital. In fact, some of that money will be used to fund the DTV-to-analog converter boxes millions will still need to get over-the-air TV signals.

Frontline, whose backers include former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, wants the FCC to require that 10 mHz of that auctioned spectrum be set aside for a public safety communications system in which the spectrum would be used for commercial purposes, but immediately available for an interoperable public safety network in times of crisis.

Only an hour or two before Hundt was slated to update reporters on Frontline, using the new iPhone as a hook, the committee sent out a copy of the letter.

The legislators, led by ranking Energy & Commerce and Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee members Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), respectively, argued that the Frontline proposal would jury-rig the auction and "harm both the broader auction and our public safety goals."

They say that the Frontline proposal, which is only a few months old, is an 11th-hour initiative that is "short of specifics."

They also took issue with Frontline proposals of open access, calling it among "blatant poison pills to discourage competing bids and lower the price of the spectrum."

Saying the Frontline proposal could jeopardize the converter box subsidy and arguing the FCC needs abide by the auction dealine, set by Congress, the legislators ask the commission to reject the Frontline set-aside proposal, let Frontline bid in the open auction, then arrange with First Responders for its public private service.

Hundt said Monday that Frontline would have a written response to the letter, but said that the legislators must have missed the weekend news about the iPhone and the slowness of the AT&T wireless network, saying that if Frontline were allowed to build its network, there would be an open, 12-times-as-fast, network available for the next iPhone.