The Political Fight For A Company That Wants Some Free Spectrum

from the it's-all-politics dept

Not quite sure what to make of this one, but the Washington Post is running the story behind Northpoint Technology (which has a similar name to Northpoint Communications, the old out-of-business DSL provider, but is a different company) which is trying to offer a TV service using the same spectrum that satellite TV providers use. However, it wouldn’t be via satellite, but using an antenna-based network on the ground. The issue, though, is how to get access to the spectrum. They’ve asked the FCC for the spectrum, and the satellite providers protested, saying Northpoint’s system would interfere with their service. An independent study looked into the matter and said the satellite TV providers were making it all up, and there wasn’t any need to be concerned about interference (after a few minor tweaks). All good? Not so fast. The FCC decided they shouldn’t just give out the spectrum when they could be profiting by auctioning off the spectrum (because their past spectrum auctions have worked out so well – just ask NextWave). What they might not have counted on, was that the folks behind Northpoint all seem to be impressively politically connected (as are the satellite TV companies) and thus, the political lobbying battle began. Northpoint has been pushing Congress to prevent the FCC from auctioning off the spectrum, and instead, just giving it to them. Those against this say that it makes no sense to just give away valuable spectrum to a private company. Northpoint supporters though, argue that this will build up competition against satellite TV and cable TV providers. Of course, the same would be true if any company that bought the spectrum at auction used it for such an offering. What’s unclear from the article is, if the auction is blocked, will only Northpoint get access to the spectrum, or will any company have the right to make a claim on the spectrum? Still, this sounds like the type of battle that’s unlikely to be won by reasoned argument – but will come down to who does the best job lobbying for support. Isn’t politics wonderful?

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