John Edwards Weighs In On Spectrum Auction

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The FCC's upcoming auction of analog spectrum in the 700 mHz band being reclaimed from broadcasters has become a presidential campaign issue.

Candidate John Edwards has written FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to say that the result of that auction should be more "available and affordable" Internet access. The spectrum is being auctioned for advanced wireless services, including broadband delivery, and Edwards wants to make sure that the auction rules allow for up to half of the spectrum to be reserved for wholesalers who can resell it to smaller start-ups, rather than allow large entrenched companies to buy it.

He also wants network neutrality conditions on the spectrum that is sold, and to make the bididng anonymous to prevent collusion.

The FCC is expected to come out with the rules for the auction in the next several weeks, and Martin has said he would like to get the auction started this fall. It must be held no later than January 2008, says Congress.

Full text of the letter follows:

"Dear Chairman Martin:

The upcoming 700 megahertz spectrum auction presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the next generation of American technology.

"In recent years, the Internet has grown to touch everything and transform much of what it touches. It's not the answer to everything, but it can powerfully accelerate the best of America. It improves our democracy by making quiet voices loud, improves our economy by making small markets big, and improves opportunity by making unlikely dreams possible.

"As you know, the Federal Communications Commission is now preparing to auction the 700 megahertz slice of the spectrum. This "beachfront" band is particularly well suited to wireless broadband because it has wide coverage and can easily pass through walls.

"By setting bid and service rules that unleash the potential of smaller new entrants, you can transform information opportunity for people across America -- rural and urban, wealthy and not. As much as half of the spectrum should be set aside for wholesalers who can lease access to smaller start-ups, which has the potential to improve service to rural and underserved areas. Additionally, anyone winning rights to this valuable public resource should be required not to discriminate among data and services and to allow any device to be attached to their service. Finally, bidding should be anonymous to avoid collusion and retaliatory bids.

"I urge you to seize this chance to transform the Internet and the future.

Sincerely,

John Edwards"

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