From The Blog: FCC Fiddles, Broadband Opportunity Burns

Why the FCC's slow pace on the spectrum auction matters.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says creating a "third pipe"--besides DSL and cable--is the most important step the United States can take to ensure affordable home broadband.

In announcing last week that the FCC would put off, once again, finalizing details for the auction of 700-MHz spectrum scheduled for later this year, he said, "The upcoming auction represents the single most important opportunity for us to achieve this goal.''

Umm, right, Mr. Commissioner, so ... think you could move it along here?

This delay is for comment on a proposal from startup Frontline Wireless to reserve spectrum for a nationwide commercial network that also would provide bandwidth for public safety agencies in emergencies.

The FCC's pace matters because the U.S. is falling further behind other countries. U.S. broadband penetration dropped from 12th to 15th among industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. is 20th among 30 OECD nations in broadband growth rate.

Competing interests in the auction are big: major wireless carriers; Big Tech, including Google and Intel; Frontline; the general public; and public safety officials in a post-9/11, post-Katrina world. Getting it right is imperative. But so is getting it done soon.

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