Top of Mind

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want

By Paula Bernier

The need for more wireless spectrum to support the boom in mobile devices and bandwidth has been discussed at great length and, I thought, was an idea on which most in the industry agreed. But recently this supposition, as well as how wireless spectrum is made available for this purpose, has been thrown into question.

We have Verizon (News - Alert) Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg to thank for that.

Recently, Seidenberg told The Wall Street Journal that the FCC shouldn’t be involved in freeing broadcast spectrum for wireless use and went on to opine that maybe, just maybe, the need for new wireless spectrum isn’t as significant as we had all been led to believe.

Here’s the quote: “I don’t think the FCC (News - Alert) should tinker with this. I think the market’s going to settle this.” And, referring to The National Broadband Plan: “I don’t think we’ll have a spectrum shortage the way this document suggests we will.”

Needless to say, a lot of folks were bowled over.

Clearly, Verizon is among the key companies positioned to benefit from the FCC’s much-publicized effort to free up spectrum for wireless use. In fact, a March 2 blog by corporate communications VP Jim Gerace quotes Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam (News - Alert) as lauding the FCC’s efforts to free up spectrum via the National Broadband Plan.

McAdam was quoted as saying: “Verizon Wireless commends Chairman Genachowski for his vision and leadership in recognizing the critical importance of unleashing more spectrum to support the burgeoning growth of mobile broadband and his commitment to free up 500 Megahertz of new spectrum over the next decade. The wireless industry has been an engine for innovation, economic growth, and job creation. In order to continue that successful track record and deliver public benefits in the areas of education, health care, energy management, and public safety, more spectrum will be needed in the future.

“Verizon Wireless agrees with the chairman that newly identified spectrum should be subject to market-based policies that will promote innovation, speed the delivery of advanced wireless products and services, and ensure that commercial spectrum flows to uses the market values most,” McAdam went on to say. “Moreover, as the commission moves to auction more spectrum, clearly defined and flexible rights will ensure continued innovation and investment in the industry. Verizon looks forward to working with the commission to establish this important spectrum policy framework.”

This kind of response makes perfect sense given, as FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus recently blogged, “Verizon played a major role in building an overwhelming record in support of more mobile broadband spectrum.”

And yet now come the Seidenberg comments.

In case anyone thinks the comments were just a slip of the tongue, the journal later reported that a Verizon spokesman says while the company still believes there is a “long-term need” for more mobile broadband spectrum, in the near term “we support greater reliance on the free market to ensure that 1) unused spectrum can be purchased by those who would use it, and 2) all spectrum is put to its highest and best use.”

To quote Lazarus, who commented on the Seidenberg’s now-famous words: “baffling.” IT