Feature Article

December 12, 2012

Precedent or Precipice: Reverse Incentive Actions and the Fiscal Cliff

Today Congress is holding hearings about the reverse incentive actions. On Wednesday, December 19, we will be streaming live from Washington our discussion about reverse incentive actions. We’ve gathered a former FCC Commissioner, a current FCC leader and several of our lawyer friends, because these actions are setting the stage for the next wave of spectrum policies.

Let’s talk about the precipice.

In the Clinton administration, one of the reasons that the government had a surplus was the licensing of spectrum now associated with our LTE roll out. When the government moved us to HDTV signals the old TV stations’ spectrum became a new opportunity for auctions. It was also hoped that the sum of the spectrum would be unlicensed and available for the next generation of Wi-Fi - what FCC Commissioner Genachowski has called Super WiFi, and where we got the name for our Super Wi-Fi Conference in Miami, Jan. 29-Feb. 1. 

The fiscal cliff has given rise to the spectrum being seen as part of the revenue side for the negotiations, and the result is the reverse incentive actions are going to be used to build spectrum opportunities for auction.

The question we have to face is exactly how much spectrum will be freed up and will any of it be considered “open” for business to use independent of the auction?   The actions now bring us to the precedent.

We have many precedents so far.

Wi-Fi has proven to be far more valuable than anyone imagined. It was considered a poor performing spectrum and was associated with cordless home phones and other local solutions until the Ethernet protocols of 802.11 were applied to it.

Ethernet, is as important as the Internet because it has taught us that you can share a network path and maintain performance. Sharing spectrum is now a key ingredient for the Super Wi-Fi strategy. Besides the migration of the TV spectrum, there are blocks of spectrum being used by the government that could be consolidated and repurposed for more spectrum sales.

So we are at a critical point for spectrum policy. We are either going to see all the spectrum being valued for sale, or we are going to see a mix where shared spectrum becomes available again.

We have made this discussion a mini conference that is virtual and available for only $150 and CLE credit is available. If you have spectrum, you’re going to be able to figure out its future value, if you want spectrum you are going to understand the costs of acquiring it, and if you want the next Wi-Fi, you can join me in listening for the chance to share.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

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