I was recently sent a link to this petition from MoveOn.org and asked what I thought about it. I'll quote a section from the petition:
Use the public airwaves for the public good, or turn them over to big companies who will stifle competition, innovation, and the wireless Internet revolution. We're urging the FCC to mandate that whoever wins the auction cannot stifle competition and innovation.
First, I generally dislike MoveOn.org because they water down the issue into platitudes so that you have to agree with their position in the petition. Who wants to support anticompetitive regulations? Who wants to stifle innovation? Obviously I should be in favor of their position, right? But they water down the issue in such a way that you can't research it either the issue or their actual position. What is the issue? What is their actual position on the issue?
I don't know so, here's what I have to say in broader terms.
Researching Geek Topics and Spectrum Use
When it comes to geek topics, the place that has the best articles, news, and commentary weighing boths sides is generally slashdot. I went to their page for Communications Articles which shows this was discussed exactly zero times over the last 30 articles which goes back to December of 2006. So, not discussed at all. MoveOn doesn't scoop slashdot. So this is apparently unimportant to slashdot which means I don't care either.
Wired magazine has a current article on It's Silicon Valley vs. Telcos in Battle for Wireless Spectrum which describes the issue (I assume it's the same one) with real detail and provides actual insight into the situation without (much) loaded language or baiting. After reading that...I believe that an auction for unused airwaves would be a good idea in general, especially if it were for somewhat limited periods of time or had some "use it or lose it" string attached to it. I believe that if more of the available spectrum were auctioned we'd likely see an increase in services available to consumers. I'm not really sold on the Frontline proposal of an open access system. If they want to create a system that is easily opened and leased then great - buy the spectrum at auction and create that system. The backers of Frontline easily have enough cash to go toe-to-toe with Verizon or AT&T in an auction - no need to get a special regulation that grants them the bandwidth directly.
My basic opinion at this point is that with the so many modes of transmitting information (cellular, wifi, fixed radio, satellite, twisted pair copper - aka telephone, coaxial cable) that the FCC/FTC should drop many of their regulations. We no longer have a single line leading down the "last mile" to the home. Why regulate like as if that "last mile" is still controlled by one company?