Hazlett on National Broadband Strategy

Professor Thomas Hazlett argues in an article appearing in Communications Technology that competition, not a national broadband strategy, is the impetus for growth and development of broadband in the U.S.

"To say that somehow we are falling behind and we have to desperately (be) doing something obscures the issue and guarantees that whatever comes next in terms of policy proposal will not be well crafted," Hazlett says. "If you want to do it through implicit subsidies, (you) will be stuck with a monopoly; you won't get the vibrancy and entrepreneurial(ism) forced by competition," he adds.

Hazlett is critical of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) November ruling to allow unlicensed use of television white spaces, which will increase with the dropping of analog broadcast signals, citing inefficiency in the way licensed TV stations have been spread out across the spectrum.

"You need somebody to basically reorganize the TV band and move the TV stations in the spectrum space," says Hazlett. Ownership of the spectrum, rather than the FCC's choice to go unlicensed, would provide the incentive to effect the shift, he claims.

Capitol Report: DC Focuses on Broadband, Communications Technology, March 15, 2009. By Monta Monaco Hernon.

"The use of these white spaces has also been touted as a vehicle for bridging the digital divide. 'The increase(d) capacity of the spectrum will enable broadband signals to be carried wirelessly into un(der)served communities, often rural ones, that are ignored by larger broadband providers because the cost of laying the last mile is too expensive,' said Jake Ward, spokesman for the Wireless Innovation Alliance, a consortium that supports the use of TV white spaces.

"Hazlett said that while the potential is there, the FCC's ruling will 'push any useful deployment out another 50 to 70 years.' He commented, 'The way licensed TV stations have been spread out across the spectrum is inefficient, and the decision does not change this.'

"'You need somebody to basically reorganize the TV band and move the TV stations in the spectrum space,' Hazlett added. He does not believe this will occur because the FCC chose to go unlicensed. Ownership of the spectrum would provide incentive to push the TV stations to shift.

"Hazlett pointed to Qualcomm, which purchased analog Ch. 55 in an auction.

"'(Qualcomm) paid TV stations to accept interference with its service MediaFlo,' he said. In some cases, the TV stations took new channel assignments. 'That is what you want to happen over the entire TV band.'

"Cable's concerns

"Hazlett is not the only one thinking that the FCC's ruling on white spaces is problematic.

"The National Cable and Telecommunications Association expressed concerns throughout this multiple year FCC proceeding. One of the NCTA's basic points is that, unlike terrestrial broadcasting, cable TV systems have no equivalent vacant or white spaces in their channel lineups. That means that white spaces devices - or TV band devices (TVBDs) - operating close enough to a subscriber's TV set could pose a risk to any channel through direct pickup (DPU) interference."

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