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State Laws/Franchising

House Lawmakers Critical of Frontline Wireless Plan

7/02/2007 2:46 AM Eastern

A bipartisan group from the House Energy and Commerce Committee is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to reject a plan that would require a spectrum-auction winner to build a broad public-safety network, offer nothing but wholesale service and guarantee that the network complied with network-neutrality principles.

“Let’s not mistake this proposal for what it is: yet another attempt to get valuable spectrum on the cheap,” the House group said in a June 29 letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin.

The letter was signed by 16 lawmakers -- 12 Republicans and four Democrats. Leading Republicans on the letter were Reps. Joe Barton (Texas) and Fred Upton (Mich.). Prominent Democrats included Reps. Gene Green (Texas) and Charles Gonzalez (Texas).

The lawmakers were taking direct aim at Frontline Wireless, which has called on the FCC to make some spectrum available at auction only to licensees committed both to building the public-safety networks and to providing a network that functions as an open platform available to any provider on a wholesale basis.

The letter said Frontline’s plan was unpopular with public-safety first-responders and could artificially depress spectrum-auction revenue, which is expected to reach $10 billion.

“Suggestions to impose wholesale and so-called open-access requirements … are blatant poison pills to discourage competitive bids and lower the price of the spectrum,” the letter said.

Frontline issued a statement indicating that some claims in the letter were inaccurate.

“The Frontline plan does not bar any interested bidder from bidding; that’s simply a Verizon [Communications] canard,” Frontline spokeswoman Mary Greczyn said. “The Frontline proposals provisions also do not poison anything; instead they are the elixir demanded by the FCC as it points toward a way to serve both competition and public safety.”

 

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