Likely Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski has promised Senator John Kerry (D-MA) that he’ll give due attention to a petition asking the FCC to investigate exclusivity arrangements between handset manufacturers and wireless carriers. The most famous of these is AT&T’s deal with Apple for the iPhone. The White House’s pick to run the Commission also pledged to take action if the agency concludes that these arrangements hurt consumers.
The long standing request for action on this issue came from the Rural Cellular Association (RCA), which charges that they shortchange rural areas. “Yes, if confirmed, I will ensure that the full record on the RCA petition is reviewed, and act accordingly to promote competition and consumer choice,” Genachowski declared in a set of formal responses to questions posed by Kerry.
Genachowski also responded to four other questions posed by Kerry, albeit with circumspect answers that probably stem from a desire not to commit to too much, too soon. To a query about addressing the “shocking lack of minority voices in media markets today,” he promised to develop (take a deep breath here) “constitutionally permissible strategies to ensure that there is a wide dissemination of licenses so that women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses have ample opportunity to compete, innovate, and contribute their voices to the national and local media marketplace.”
The nominee did agree with Kerry that the agency should, as part of its National Broadband Plan, conduct a comprehensive inventory of all available spectrum and the ways that it is currently being used. Kerry has introduced a bill that would make a survey of spectrum use between 200MHz and 3.5GHz a requirement of the Communications Act. And, while Genachowski didn’t sign on to Kerry’s proposal to extend the Universal Service Fund’s “Lifeline” program to broadband, he called it “an idea that I am very interested in learning more about.” At present the fund only subsidizes telephone service.
Kerry’s Lifeline question acknowledged that there is “considerable disagreement” about how the White House’s $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus money should be spent, specifically whether it should allocated to broadband rollout in rural areas, or to “demand side” programs (such as Lifeline) that encourage more consumers to buy high speed Internet.
“My concern is that we are funding projects that are sustainable beyond the 2 year window of funding availability—” Kerry told Genachowski, “the worst thing we could do is pour this money into projects that 2 years from now will not be viable.”
Putting the unanswered questions aside, no one should be surprised that RCA is quite happy about Genachowski and Copps’ comments regarding exclusive handsets.
“It is RCA’s expectation that the FCC will find that there are significant consumer and competitive harms caused by such deals,” Todd Lantor, the group’s attorney told us. “It is RCA’s hope that the Commission will move promptly on this item and ultimately decide that banning exclusive handset agreements is what the public interest dictates.”
Iterfering with contract, monopolizing the radio spectrum, treating people differently due to their class, being successfully lobbyed by small companies looking to interfere with volunary actions of other companies, advocating wealth redistribution. Can they stop pussyfooting around and just roll out the socio fascist red carpet? This bloodletting of anything resembling freedom is painful.