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US 700MHz spectrum auction under threat

US cellco Verizon Wireless this week threw a spanner into the works of the 700MHz US spectrum auction due in January. The carrier is taking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to court over the recently added open access amendments to the licensing conditions.

In August, the FCC bowed to pressure from a number of open access proponents, including Google, and revised its 700MHz band plan and service rules to facilitate the availability of “new and innovative wireless broadband services for consumers.”

Although the FCC stopped short of including all of the demands cited by open access proponents, under the compromise rules companies that buy the spectrum will have to let customers use any device of their choice on the network, and download and access any application, provided they meet certain requirements.

The 700MHz band of radio spectrum, is currently occupied by television broadcasters but will be refarmed and auctioned off as part of the switchover to digital broadcasting.

But Verizon is not happy with the amendments and is suing the Commission over a change in the rules it believes is “arbitrary and capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.”

But Google disagrees. Chris Sacca, head of Special Initiatives at the web giant fired off a response to the law suit on Thursday. “The nation’s spectrum airwaves are not the birthright of any one company. They are a unique and valuable public resource that belong to all Americans. The FCC’s auction rules are designed to allow U.S. consumers — for the first time — to use their handsets with any network they desire, and download and use the lawful software applications of their choice,” Sacca said.

“It’s regrettable that Verizon has decided to use the court system to try to prevent consumers from having any choice of innovative services. Once again, it is American consumers who lose from these tactics,” he added.


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