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700 MHz spectrum

New plan for the 700 MHz D Block

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about the 700 MHz auction. That’s mainly because everything is said and done. We’re not going to see much in terms of new network coverage, since the big players are planning to use it for LTE, which we won’t see for a few years. Metro PCS is one of the exceptions, as it plans to roll out the Boston license it acquired in the auction sometime early next year. ANYWAY, we’re now hearing that the FCC has a new plan to auction the D Block. You know, that one reserved for public safety, but didn’t meet the reserve price.

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As expected, Verizon wins C-Block

Well, that didn’t take too long. After months of speculation, the results of the 700 MHZ auction are in. And you know what? They aren’t too pretty. See, the government raked in nearly $20 billion on this deal. The two largest wireless carriers in the nation, Verizon and AT&T, put up $16.3 billion combined. So it looks like all hopes of regional companies expanding and new names hitting the cellular market have just crashed and burned. All this auction did was make the rich richer.

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700 MHZ auction grosses $19.6 billion

And so we have finally reached the end of the 700 MHz auction. It was a long, grueling process, with little to speak of after the first few weeks in February. But the bids kept coming in in snail-like fashion, so the auction went on. And on. And on. Until we finally reached the closing point. However, don’t think this is through. If you remember back to high school, there was something called Freytag’s Pyramid, which described dramatic structure. There is the exposition, followed by rising action, then the climax, falling action, and finally denouement, or resolution. Well, we haven’t quite hit the climax yet.

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Just one snag left in the 700 MHz auction

Okay, so the government has raked in a ton more money than they had anticipated — or at least publicly anticipated — with the 700 MHz auction. They’re up near $20 billion, which has to be a major victory, since publicly they were saying they would be happy with $10 to $12 billion. The C block has also been freed, with the reserve price of $4.6 billion being met. There were rumors of a bidding frenzy for that block, but in the end it turned out to be Verizon and Verizon only, with Google there to bring the bid over the reserve mark. And now we’re left with the public safety aspect of the spectrum, which still hasn’t moved from its first-day bid of $472 million.

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Bidding slowing down on 700 MHz C block

Late last week, after speculation that the reserve might not be met, the 700 MHz spectrum C block hit its reserve price of $4.6 billion. Yes, the auction is still official. But since Friday, the bid has only reached $4.74 billion. There are potentially several weeks remaining to bid — the auction won’t end until all licenses have been finalized. But indicators are that the C block might be all but done at this point.

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Google gets open access wish

Things looked a little hairy headed into Thursday. The coveted C block — the one with the open access provision attached to it — had stalled on Wednesday. It was approaching the $4.6 billion reserve price, but hadn’t quite reached there. In fact, a few were wondering if it would be stuck at that level for quite some time. After all, AT&T and Verizon would love for the spectrum to be re-auctioned with fewer restrictions. But all of that was blown up yesterday, as one of the bidders upped the ante to $4.71 billion. Ladies and gentlemen, mission accomplished.

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C block bidding nearly at reserve price

While we still won’t know the bidders until after the auction is over, all indications are that the C block of the 700 MHz spectrum — the “open access” block — is nearing its $4.6 billion reserve price. Had it not reached the reserve price, the FCC could have opted to re-hold the auction, possibly with different provisions. Meaning, of course, that they’d auction it off without the open-access regulation. But once it hits $4.6 billion, it’ll be official.

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First day of 700 MHz auction worth $2.8 billion

No, it’s not the $12 billion they’re seeking. Yet. But the FCC has to be marginally pleased after the first round of bidding on the 700 MHz spectrum on Thursday. Wireless carriers and other assorted technology companies dropped bids worth $2.8 billion in the first two rounds. Of course, we don’t know exactly who placed the bids. I’m sure that some sites will come up with lists, but most of them can be considered bogus. Consider it like the Mitchell Report, where false lists of the accused circulated before the official list was announced.

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Today begins the 700 MHz auction

We’ve been talking about it for months, and its finally here: The fabled 700 MHz spectrum auction. The FCC will be putting 1,099 spectrum licenses up for bids, which will be awarded to a number of the 214 registered applicants. So it’s time to get excited, right? Well, maybe not quite yet. The bidding will go on for quite a while — possibly a month — and we really won’t know who won until 10 days after the auction. Hey, it’ll be more interesting than watching paint dry, at least.

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A strange new entrant to the 700 MHz auction

Surely you’ve heard of Paul Allen. You know, the dude who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates back when they both looked like this. He’s representing his investment company, Vulcan Capital, represented as Vulcan Spectrum LLC. His is just one of 96 current names accepted for bidding. There are 170-something incomplete applications, which has led the FCC to move the deadline to January 4, from December 3. Yeah, there are some interesting applicants on the already-accepted list.

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700 MHz picture getting clearer

We learned over the past few days that Leap and MetroPCS will bid in the 700 MHz spectrum auction. This is in addition to what we already knew: Verizon and AT&T would go head-to-head. Google entered the fray last last Friday, though that was pretty much a given. We’ve also seen Sprint declare their abstinence from participation, while Frontline guns for the public safety sector. A few other developments came yesterday regarding Clearwire and Cablevision.

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MetroPCS is latest addition to auction

Yesterday, we found out that Leap would be entering the 700 MHz fray. Today, the Dallas Morning News reports that rival MetroPCS will do the same. Just like their competitor, Metro will be bidding for smaller slivers of the spectrum, rather than on the 22 megahertz that’s coveted by Verizon, AT&T, and Google. Dallas Morning News also mentions that Leap and Metro cannot talk about mergers until after the auction, pursuant to anti-collusion rules. We’re not sure they’d want to speak on that topic, anyway.

[Dallas Morning News]

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Leap entering the 700 MHz auction

Despite it’s financial reporting errors and a possible class action lawsuit, Leap Wirless has announced that it will bid for in the 700 MHz spectrum auction. Of course, they won’t be gunning for the $4.5 billion, 22 megahertz portion that’s been reserved for open-access. Rather, they’ll bid on a smaller slice in order to fill out their network. So the company must have some level of faith in their revised reportings, which are scheduled to be released sometime this month. Dare we mention both MetroPCS and Leap buying spectrum separately and then merging?

[Reuters]

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Google officially in auction

We didn’t get a chance to follow up on this on Friday, but Google has officially announced their intentions to bid in the coming 700 Mhz spectrum auction. It had been assumed that the company would put down billions for the spectrum, but they had not registered their intent with the FCC until Friday. They’re looking to become fully ensconced in the wireless world, having formed the Open Handset Alliance in November. Now they could have their own carrier on which to run the software (though they don’t necessarily need one — Sprint and T-Mobile are part of the Alliance).

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Google to announce 700 Mhz plans today

We can only provide a sliver of this information, as our “free preview” of the Wall Street Journal covers the first paragraph and a half of this report. The gist, though, is that Google plans to officially announce their intent to bid on the 700 MHz spectrum. More as it comes.

[Wall Street Journal]

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FCC tweaks auction rules

It’s not a huge change in the rules to many, but to Frontline it means the world. The FCC has ruled that the winner of the 10 megahertz block of spectrum that is reserved for public safety can use all excess bandwidth on a wholesale basis, rather than a retail basis. Gibberish? It might be to many people outside the industry.

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Alltel to participate in spectrum auction

It seems that TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners, the companies that bought Alltel earlier this year, have some brains behind their piles of money. Instead of going in and messing with what was working, the newly-annoited bosses of the company (though the deal still won’t close for two weeks, give or take) are maintaining the status quo. Management will almost all stay in place, though with a bit of role reassigning. Oh yeah, and they’ll be bidders in the 700 MHz spectrum auction.

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Verizon drops open-access challenge

A month ago, we railed against Verizon for their appeal of the open-access provision of the 700 MHz spectrum auction. They later filed for an expedited hearing, given our proximity to the auction date. That was shot down by the courts, though. Now Verizon is using that as their reason to drop the appeal completely. Though it might not have mattered. Legal experts imply that they would have lost the appeal anyway, since the courts don’t routinely supersede the FCC.

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Woo hoo! FCC retains open-access provision

Take that, Verizon! Yes, we know we were harsh on FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a few weeks ago, calling him spineless as talks aroused that he was planning to abolish the open-access provision in the 700 MHz spectrum auction. We take it all back now. Yes, Martin and the FCC have taken a stand against the big bully that is Verizon and have said that the open-access provision will remain. We couldn’t be happier.

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Frontline gets serious about open access

So, just as AT&T pulls a fast one with the 700 MHz spectrum, Frontline, a company that lobbied for open-access, is working its own magic. They’ve assembled an open access advisory council, “whose job will be to advise Frontline on all matters open access.” What that means, we’re not quite sure. We love the idea, though. Open access can be a boon for citizens, and shouldn’t be held back by the likes of Verizon and AT&T.

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AT&T acquires 700 MHz airwaves from Aloha

Well, this is going to shake up the 700 MHz spectrum auction in January. AT&T, knowing that it would have to pay a premium if in a bid against fierce competitors like Verizon and Google, has struck a $2.5 billion deal with Aloha Partners. This is $2 billion less than the reserve bid set by the government, leaving AT&T plenty of money left over to take part in the auction. However, this move gives them a clear upper hand in their dealings. As much as we dislike AT&T in principle, they made a very astute move with this one.

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Spectrum fight!

vs.
So it appears Google is really serious about this 700 MHz spectrum bid. Don’t get us wrong…we always thought Google was in this thing. But before, it seemed more of a position of aloofness. They talked about what they want, saying “yeah, maybe we’ll bid; it’s a possibility.” Now that Verizon has challenged the FCC rules, though, Google is a bit ticked. They’re telling it how it is: Verizon wants to squash competition and basically own the airwaves.

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Verizon facing sanctions for auction challenge?

This whole thing is turning into a massive mess. First, Verizon challenges the FCC auction rules, basically saying that the open-access rules aren’t proven to be effective, and even unlawful. Then, reports abound that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is working to change the open-access provision, “coincidentally” coming on the heels of a meeting with Verizon. Now Frontline, another potential auction bidder, wants Verizon and their slimy tactics barred from bidding. Why? Because Frontline alleges that Verizon has violated FCC lobbying rules.

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Huge roadblock to Google’s spectrum bid

You ever get that feeling that you’re missing a key piece of information when making an argument? Yeah, we had that feeling with Google and the 700 MHz spectrum auction. Yeah, their bidding on and winning a block of open-access spectrum seemed highly appealing; they’ve done a lot of good with the company, and it makes perfect sense that they would be the ones to bring us sensible cell phone service. However, there’s quite the obstacle standing in their way: the physical network. Current estimates have it costing $12 billion, and taking three years to build out. So is Google willing to make such a commitment?

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FCC lacks a backbone

Ever since the rules for the 700 MHz auction were announced in August, we’ve been gently singing the praises of the FCC. It took some guts to put the open-access provision in the rules, but the FCC stuck to their guns and decided to give Americans something they deserved: the chance to not be hampered by the big telecom companies. Unfortunately, the big telecoms are the ones that will give the government the most money for the spectrum, so it appears that the open-access provision might have been a hollow showing. Yes, FCC Kevin Martin appears to be caving to Verizon, who sued the FCC over the rules.

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AT&T now has beef with spectrum auction

Whatever one does, you can expect the other to mimic. So maybe AT&T isn’t trying to void the rules of the 700 MHz auction, but they certainly have a problem with the rules imposed by the FCC. Theirs, though, has no thing to do with open-access; it’s about the public safety provision attached to a block of the spectrum. It seems that AT&T isn’t so much in favor of the part of the rules that says bidders must reach a service agreement with public safety officials in advance of the auction. Failure to do so would preclude a company from bidding. AT&T thinks that this is “an extreme penalty.” We think not.

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Verizon appeals open-access spectrum

We knew that Verizon, AT&T, et. al, wouldn’t like the 700 MHz spectrum auction rules. They badly want that piece of the pie, though, so they’re doing the American thing: filing suit. They find that the open-access provision and all the conditions thereto “exceed the commission’s authority and were unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.” Yes, companies will say anything when they get desperate, and they’ll do anything to cover up their blatant play for even more power. They want your money, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.

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Apple, Google in cahoots?

Speculation arose earlier this week that Apple was so fed up with wireless carriers in general — AT&T specifically — that it would enter its own bid in the 700 MHz auction. This unfounded rumor was quickly put to rest by the invocation of simple logic. If Apple profits so handsomely from their hardware sales, why would they make this foray into a completely unknown (to them) industry? As Mike Dano of RCR Wireless News might say: Would you want to get a haircut from Apple? But maybe this is all a little of what magicians would call misdirection.

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Apple sells millionth iPhone, readies for spectrum bid

Gadgetry is running rampant. Just 74 days following its June 29th release, the iPhone is now a million strong. Apple says it sold the millionth device this past Sunday, exceeding many expectations of sales. This is especially significant because of the time it took to sell one million iPods, which is a far more universal device than the iPhone. It took nearly two years to get a million of the MP3 players off the shelves, though they probably do that monthly now. Even though this is a weighty accomplishment for Apple, the news from the company doesn’t start there. It appears, though it is completely unconfirmed, that Apple is mulling a bid in the impending 700 MHz spectrum auction to be held this January.

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60 GHz spectrum could be feasible within 3 years

We’ve been just a little obsessed with the 700 MHz spectrum over the past few months. It represents to us, as it does many others, a big opportunity to introduce a more consumer-friendly wireless carrier. Of course, Verizon and AT&T might have something to say about that, but with the FCC rules in place, both companies have much less of an incentive to bid on the spectrum, while Google has every reason in the world to do so. But while that spectrum might be the most attractive now, there could be an even more powerful one a few years down the road: 60 GHz.

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Spectrum rules may deter big telecoms

The rules for the 700 MHz auction were set at the beginning of the month, but just now we’re hearing about a provision that hasn’t yet really been publicized. We all know that 22 megahertz of the spectrum is reserved for open access. So now you can use the handset that Chuck Schmuck has been developing in his basement for the past 10 years. However, it was feared that the incumbents (Big Four) would bid on the spectrum anyway, integrating it with their existing network and therefore diluting the true effect of open access. However, that simply won’t be the case, according to the rules.

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Despite unfavorable rules, Google still plans to bid on spectrum

You have to hand it to the guys at Google. Where many people would have backed out because of rulings that favor large telecommunications companies, they still plan to forge ahead with their bid on the 700 MHz spectrum auction. This is a boon for consumers, as Google is one of the very few corporations that truly wants to utilize the open-access spectrum, which was mandated by the FCC for 22 megahertz. They might be the only serious bidder beyond the big telecoms that has a shot at that area of the spectrum.

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FCC allows one bidder to take majority of spectrum

Oh, we’re definitely not happy about this. It appears that in the official 700 MHz spectrum auction rules, there is no provision limiting how much bandwidth a single company can bid on. Yes, that means that AT&T or Verizon could swoop in and gobble up an enormous chunk of the spectrum, thereby setting America further back in wireless communication technology. It’s a harsh assessment, but it’s essentially what’s going to happen. Verizon in particular is apt to make an enormous bid on the majority of the spectrum, knowing that they’ll see a return on that investment.

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In brief: Read this article

We’ve written more than our share on the 700 MHz spectrum auction. The basic gist is that if the big carriers win the majority of licenses, we as consumers lose out. Mike Himowitz of the Winston-Salem Journal pens his own exquisite look at the issue. We’re pretty much on board with every word he writes, and wanted to pass it along to you guys. Happy reading.

[Baltimore Sun]

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It’s unanimous: 700 MHz auction rules set

And finally, after weeks and weeks of reading about who wants what with the 700 MHz spectrum, the FCC has voted on the official rules of the auction. However, more interesting than the actual results are the reactions of concerned parties. Well, not the general reactions: party lines were clearly drawn. But rather the specific reactions from specific people. Oh yeah, the results. Yes, we’re getting open-access requirements on 22 MHz of the spectrum. No, there isn’t a wholesale provision to be found.

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See? We’re not the only ones amped up over the spectrum auction

Okay, so we’ve spent much of the past few weeks obsessing over the 700 MHz spectrum auction. We know we’re exaggerating this feeling, but it’s almost like the spectrum is some kind of primordial ooze, and we have to keep it out of the wrong hands. Except instead of acting, we write. And write, and write, and write. We’ve reached a milestone today, as the FCC will officially bring the auction terms to a vote. There will surely be a post about the results tomorrow, but for now, lets turn to BusinessWeek, one of our favorite publications, for their take on the matter.

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6 reasons an open spectrum would benefit prepaid, and 4 reasons why it would hurt

Six beneficial reasons

1. Major carriers would be forced to overhaul their prepaid plans
Let’s face it: most of the major carriers have pretty crappy prepaid plans. And to an extent, it’s understandable. They value their contract subscribers far more, because they commit to two years of service. With prepaid, they’re guaranteed nothing. So of course they’re going to concentrate their efforts on the portion of the business that brings them the best (and most guaranteed) profits.

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Verizon PR puts favorable spin on open access plan

If AT&T supports a supposedly consumer-friendly provision, well, Verizon can’t be far behind. Previously vehemently opposed to open access requirements on the 700 MHz spectrum (“There’s enough competition”), Verizon has changed course and now supports an open access spectrum. Don’t confuse this for a genuine desire to see more devices on the market; for the most part, this was a forced move.

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Google’s spectrum demand won’t be met

In a sad announcement for all of us who wanted a truly open spectrum hosted by companies that would provide us innovative products, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has announced that they will not put a wholesale requirement on the 700 MHz spectrum. Mr. Martin believes — rightly so — that such a requirement would make the big players less willing to bid on and build the network. So what happens now?

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Google ready to put up, bid on spectrum

Woo hoo! No longer will Google be advocates of an open, wholesale spectrum — they’ll actually have the chance to own it. Word has it that they will bid at least $4.6 billion in the auction. It’s not certain if that amount will meet the government’s reserve price, but it’s tough to sneeze at $4.6 billion. However, as we’ve said before, there’s always a catch.

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AT&T backs open access requirement

Last week, we noted that AT&T blasted Google over their proposed open access rules for the impending spectrum auction. That totally made sense: AT&T has been furiously upgrading their wireless networks. They’re looking to control your communications, so obtaining parts or all of the 700 MHz spectrum would be very favorable, to state the obvious. However, now they’re taking a friendlier, likely PR-driven stance on the open access requirements.

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Regional carriers oppose open access spectrum

Normally, we show support for regional cell providers because they’re competing with the large companies, which we seem to loathe more and more every day. So when they voice opposition to the open access provision of the 700 MHz spectrum auction, we listen. Problem is, we’re not exactly agreeing with them. It’s not that we don’t want them to expand their business and provide an attractive alternative to the Big Four. It’s that we think they’re being just as selfish as the big telecoms.

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Kick big telecom companies in the butt with an open access spectrum

Imagine you just bought a state-of-the-art 60-inch HDTV. It’s so neat and so big and so awesome. The delivery people hardly have the thing installed before you’re on the phone with your cable company, instructing them to come install service so you can get the most out of your TV. You want it all: sports, movies, heck, even the news. It is such a perfect device that you feel you now can’t live without it — and even wonder how you lived life before you had it. So for months and months, you bask in television’s arm glowing warming glow.

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Spectrum auction makes for strange bedfellows

AT&T and Verizon, the Nos. 1 and 2 wireless providers in America, are always going at one another in the name of business and competition. They’ll surely be rivals once we get closer to the 2008 spectrum auction; the results could determine the No. 1 carrier in America for years to come. Unless, of course, it goes to another party. Since this hypothetical third (or fourth or fifth) party threatens both of them, it would make sense for them to combine forces and eliminate it and then deal with the fallout among themselves. This is exactly why we hate this huge corporate mindset. We truly believe that the spectrum is better off in independent hands.

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Tech companies take action against major carriers

We just filed this under the “what took you so long?” category. Actually, it has been going on for quite some time, but we suppose the coming spectrum auction is bringing more of this news to the forefront. Anyway, tech companies are fed up with the major carriers being picky and choosy with which devices and services can be used on their networks. Because of this selectiveness, many companies are barred from offering their products or service on particular carriers. In fact, some are blocked from all carriers. Call us old fashioned, but we call that an oligopoly — or at least the beginnings thereof.

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This is going to be a fun year: Verizon shoots back on auction rules

So what does the company with the largest national cellular network do the day after this rumor starts appearing? They fire back and call the whole ordeal unfair. You know, because they don’t have enough power already. They need it all, and if it’s at the price of consumer freedom, well, consumer freedom be damned. Of course, we’re being a bit harsh on Verizon Wireless right now. But we’re a bit peeved that they simply can’t accept rules that would allow for new innovation and greater competition. The underlying problem is that they don’t see it that way.

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That was quick: FCC sets rules for spectrum auction

Lots of quality news today. So let’s start with our favorite bit: the rules for the impending wireless spectrum auction have been leaked. And guess what? It’s going to throw the major carriers into a tizzy. That’s right, the rules for the auction will require that more than a third of the 60 MHz spectrum be available for open access. That is, it cannot be used for locked devices, such as the ones your wireless carrier sells you every day. As Johnny Drama would say: Victory!

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