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Congress Wants FCC To Auction TV White Spaces

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the maximizing-profits dept.

Wireless Networking 127

GovTechGuy writes "Things don't look good for Google, Microsoft and other companies hoping to experiment with super WiFi and other technologies in unused TV channels or 'White spaces'. Both House Republicans and Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller are prodding the FCC to sell as much spectrum as possible at next year's incentive auction, which may not leave much for those hoping to advance the next generation of WiFi technology."

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127 comments

keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (5, Insightful)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 8 months ago | (#44442077)

instead of those with the big bucks owning huge lots of spectrum, FCC should regulate it like public roads and airspace to be sure everyone has a fair share and still follow the rules. It seems few corporations will get big slices so they can do whatever they want with it, and everyone else get scraps like 2.4GHz which become useless (classic example of tragedy of the commons).

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 8 months ago | (#44442143)

Sad thing is that is what the FCC is supposed to be doing. Limited resource for the public good, but the current meme of 'private enterprise is the solution to all problems' has twisted their mandate into enforcing who gets exclusive lucrative access to what is essentially a shared resource.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (-1, Troll)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#44442307)

Sad thing is that is what the FCC is supposed to be doing. Limited resource for the public good, but the current meme of 'private enterprise is the solution to all problems' has twisted their mandate into enforcing who gets exclusive lucrative access to what is essentially a shared resource.

frankly, i prefer private enterprise to another bloated nanny department. did you know TSA has 54,000 employees? last thing we need is a weaponized FCC "enforcing fairness."

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44442345)

last thing we need is a weaponized FCC "enforcing fairness."

You do realize that we already have exactly that for the ISM band [wikipedia.org], and it's sort of been a gigantic fucking success?

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (2, Interesting)

mc6809e (214243) | about 8 months ago | (#44442603)

last thing we need is a weaponized FCC "enforcing fairness."

You do realize that we already have exactly that for the ISM band, and it's sort of been a gigantic fucking success?

Are you kidding? The ISM bands are practically the Wild West!

Sure there are transmit power limits, but very few other rules.

And it's the LACK of rules that has made the ISM bands, especially 2.4GHz, so successful. When 2.4GHz was opened up, a ton of new devices emerged. And despite the chaos, most of these protocols cooperate without government authority because it's in the interest of the people sharing the spectrum to cooperate.

Now none of that is an argument for auctioning off spectrum, of course. In a way, auctioning spectrum is just transferring control from one giant central authority, the federal government, to another slightly smaller central authority, like ATT.

A better idea would be to divide up the country into overlapping hexagonal cells about 100 miles wide and let the locals in the covered area decide how their spectrum should be used.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44442685)

The transmit power limits and some of the Part 15 stuff was what I had in mind. You aren't allowed to just out-shout other people, and you have to tolerate the noise that they make. That keeps the playing field reasonably level, while still allowing people to do more or less whatever they want.

Were it not for power limits, the bands would likely be flooded into uselessness; but the restrictions required to keep things in order are really pretty minimal, substantially less, in practice, than the unpleasantness of dealing with stuff on many of the licensed bands.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442849)

A better idea would be to divide up the country into overlapping hexagonal cells about 100 miles wide and let the locals in the covered area decide how their spectrum should be used.

That seems highly prone to problems. What if my area allows a use for personal hotspot style device but the next hex over doesn't (because they set it aside for some other use)? Am I breaking the law then by driving through that area with my device on? What about if I'm legal where I'm at, but near enough to a different zone where my signal reaches in an illegal fashion? Who would make devices that had to contend with that kind of [literally] patchwork legal structure?

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#44442355)

Sad thing is that is what the FCC is supposed to be doing. Limited resource for the public good, but the current meme of 'private enterprise is the solution to all problems' has twisted their mandate into enforcing who gets exclusive lucrative access to what is essentially a shared resource.

frankly, i prefer private enterprise to another bloated nanny department. did you know TSA has 54,000 employees? last thing we need is a weaponized FCC "enforcing fairness."

What's the other option? Open the airwaves to all uses and forgo all regulation? Whoever radiates the most power wins? I don't see how there can be any rational use of airwaves if there's no organization to control and allocate bandwidth.

Would you advocate abolishing all traffic laws and law enforcement on streets too? No speed limits, no stop signs, no DUI laws, anything goes. If someone runs you over in an 18 wheeler -- well, too bad, you should have had a bigger car - might means right in this lawless public resource and who needs weaponized law enforcement when private industry can sort it out through selling people bigger and bigger cars.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 8 months ago | (#44442667)

What's the other option? The same rules being used for 802.11 works for me.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (2)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 8 months ago | (#44442851)

The same rules being used for 802.11 works for me.

Those rules are largely governed by physics -- where even if you wanted to, the signals don't make it that far.

With different wavelenths having very different properties, it's not obvous that the 802.11 rules (don't exceed some small limit that extends about as far as an average property line) would work.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#44443143)

What's the other option? The same rules being used for 802.11 works for me.

So you're ok with FCC regulation in the bands used by 802.11, but not the other bands? Or do you think that because your Wifi access point is unlicensed, that means that there is no regulation?

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442683)

There is a huge difference in safety regulations and laws, trying to compare something like traffic laws to something invisible that will bring no harm to anyone (physically) is overreaching.

ANy and every federal agency is corrupt, they pick and choose what they are going to do based on the monopolies that tell them what to do. I would like to see them ousted and a more open (public) org., take over. And as typical, the only time the do anything is when the media/press/public becomes wide aware of it.

The FCC, FDA, FAA, ect.. ect.. do NOTHING to make sure things are safe. This is what cracks me up about people in this country they do not trust government but have some false sense of faith in federal agencies or regulations, they wont buy a drug unless it has an FDA stamp, and they do nothing to test the drugs themselves
and they "trust" the results from research and testing. The FAA has been caught numerous times not testing any of the equipment used in airliners, but they stand there to witness testing by the companies, and there is nothing wrong with that (like fixing the tests).

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#44443075)

There is a huge difference in safety regulations and laws, trying to compare something like traffic laws to something invisible that will bring no harm to anyone (physically) is overreaching.

So is your argument that there's no public safety use for radio, or that there's no way that RF interference could get in the way of public safety use of radio? So if I, say, decided to run my "pirate" radio station on the same frequency that the local fire department uses (because I know those guys will want to hear my station!), there's no possible problem with that? I put "pirate" in quotes, because without the FCC, of course, there is no pirate radio stations, anyone anywhere can run a radio station on any frequency.

The FCC, FDA, FAA, ect.. ect.. do NOTHING to make sure things are safe. This is what cracks me up about people in this country they do not trust government but have some false sense of faith in federal agencies or regulations, they wont buy a drug unless it has an FDA stamp, and they do nothing to test the drugs themselves

The FCC sets exposure limits, among other things, and they type certify most devices to ensure that they are within legal limits for power and spectral purity among other things.

and they "trust" the results from research and testing. The FAA has been caught numerous times not testing any of the equipment used in airliners, but they stand there to witness testing by the companies, and there is nothing wrong with that (like fixing the tests).

If you want to vastly increase funding to the FAA so they can do their own testing, you should lobby for it -- I'm sure industry would be happy to be off the hook for the costs, and also to shield them from liabilty. If the FAA screw up the test and certifies something that shouldn't be certified, then it's the FAA's problem. BUt anyway, I'm not sure why you're talking about the FAA since they don't regulate airwaves.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

pakar (813627) | about 8 months ago | (#44445061)

So is your argument that there's no public safety use for radio, or that there's no way that RF interference could get in the way of public safety use of radio? So if I, say, decided to run my "pirate" radio station on the same frequency that the local fire department uses (because I know those guys will want to hear my station!), there's no possible problem with that? I put "pirate" in quotes, because without the FCC, of course, there is no pirate radio stations, anyone anywhere can run a radio station on any frequency.

Since the fire-department know about these rules they will not use a single-frequency radio but will probably move to some other type of modulation/frequency-hopping etc.. Try blanking out a radio transmitting at 100Mhz using frequency-hopping (+/-50Mhz) while also doing detection of used frequencies within this span.
Imagine possible new radio-protocols that a SDR radio could support where it could be using multiple frequencies at the same time to allow clear transmissions in a very noisy enviroment..

The FCC sets exposure limits, among other things, and they type certify most devices to ensure that they are within legal limits for power and spectral purity among other things.

And this they could still do.. They can still have requirements on that your device does not go over the set limits for power and spectral purity.
Having most of the frequency-band free for anyone to use does not say no to limiting the allowed transmit power or requiring a minimal signal purity.

We probably need some type of regulations, but having auctions for selling frequencies might not be the best thing... Would it not be nice if all cellphone-companies where forced to share all the bands? Would it not even be even better if all cellphone companies where forced to share the base-stations?
And by forced i'm talking about forced by them selves since it would be cheaper for them.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 8 months ago | (#44445235)

I'll just go back to using the radio transmitter TESLA designed that works based on a large spark gap. Sure, it's expensive to run, but no one need to tune their receivers...

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

pakar (813627) | about 8 months ago | (#44444971)

One option is that the frequency-bands are divided up in slots of 10Mhz or similar.. Then let companies propose different standards for transmitting on the frequency and the 'best' standard will win.... And of course no licencing of patents should be required for any standard proposed and maybe standards removal from a frequency should be notified ~5 years in advance and a standard for a specific frequency would be assigned for periods of 5/10/20 years depending on collaboration between the companies. Ie, no major objections = 20 years, more than 10% wants changes to the standard = 5 years.

Of course some of the bands will probably be preassigned to specific services, like broadcast tv, emergency services etc.

Some possible benefits we might get since anyone is allowed to transmit on all non-emergency bands + a few broadcast frequencies.
- Telco's could be forced to cooperate to share base-stations and frequencies in a much more efficient way. ( a standard could say "To transmit in this frequency you must join association X and agree to their rules." Association X should be run as a non-profit organization. the of course)
- FM/AM Radio could be replaced by digital radio where you could have frequency sharing between the stations (ie no common transmit tower). or for being able to transmit longer distances a shared tower could be setup. (see the association clause above)
- Handheld radio's would start being developed the same way as WiFi.

Some sort of regulation will probably be needed, but having it where more or less all bands are open for anyone to use would make for some interesting development to allow sharing the bands in hopefully the most efficient way.

Just random ideas but

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 8 months ago | (#44442809)

frankly, i prefer private enterprise to another bloated nanny department.

Then let "private enterprise" manage it. Why sell it? Do you have any idea what that bit of spectrum is going to be worth in 10 years? 20 years? Neither do I, so who do you trust to put a fair price on it?

Plus, the government has a fair bit of experience owning and managing vast bits of infrastructure over a long period of time. Certainly more than Clear Channel or Comcast or any of the big telecoms.

We've seen the ugly side of privatization here in Chicago, where the previous mayor sold off every street parking spot in the city to a company that has both jacked up the prices more than 1000% and done a terrible job managing it. But now it's too late. We're fucked and the low price that was paid can't be given back. We've lost the next 30 years of public revenue that was used to fix streets and traffic infrastructure.

Maybe you can tell us which company you'd like to see own the "white space" part of the spectrum that is now a public trust? Who do you think is going to to a great job with it?

last thing we need is a weaponized FCC "enforcing fairness."

Now you know that's bullshit. If anything, the FCC has been going in exactly the opposite direction. We've got a handful of companies owning the entire radio spectrum, and there has been practically no regulatory oversight. The federal government managed the broadcast spectrum since before WWII, and a lot of people have been able to make great use of that spectrum for a lot of great things, including a lot of commerce and communication.

I'd rather see the white space left as an open preserve than have it become the property of a multinational that owes no allegiance to this country or its people.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#44443245)

Do you have any idea what that bit of spectrum is going to be worth in 10 years? 20 years? Neither do I, so who do you trust to put a fair price on it?

With this line of thinking, why should the 10-year or 20-year point be the benchmark? Why not 5-years or 50-years?

Suppose a private company ends up paying an average amount of money for these frequency bands, but then the private company makes thousands of times more than any other company has ever made before on similar frequency bands.

Is that a good or bad outcome for society? You get different answer depending on who you ask.

The reason that we get different answers is because of a basic misunderstanding of economics, that people confuse currency with goods and services.

The federal government spends about $10 billion per day, so how much value can we really assign to the goods and services that the government might provide with any realistic purchase price?

So that leads to the grand misconception of the original argument:

The idea that an auction is to raise money for the government is wrong. Completely wrong. The purpose of the auction is to find the company with the best prospects (not just 10-year or 20-year) using the most unbiased a way that we know of.

This does not tackle the issue as to if the frequency bands should be auctioned at all, but it does eliminate the arguments about 'fair prices.'

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44443885)

The idea that an auction is to raise money for the government is wrong. Completely wrong. The purpose of the auction is to find the company with the best prospects (not just 10-year or 20-year) using the most unbiased a way that we know of.

This does not tackle the issue as to if the frequency bands should be auctioned at all, but it does eliminate the arguments about 'fair prices.'

Ahh, no. It does not find the company with the best prospects, it finds the company who is willing to spend the most money to gain a monopoly over a finite resource and it sure as hell is not unbiased. What happens is that a big company with deep pockets will buy it even if they have no current plans for the future to use the frequency band just to prevent some other competitor from gaining a foothold in the market.
    How many startups, probably with a unproven business plan, could get a few hundred million dollars to buy a frequency band (and don't forget that they still need funds to make devices, marketing, support etc)? Not to mention that the frequency bands are probably patchy at best with OTA channels taking up random bands in different areas.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#44443955)

Ahh, no. It does not find the company with the best prospects, it finds the company who is willing to spend the most money to gain a monopoly over a finite resource

..and which company is willing to do that?

You anti-free-market types are like little children.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44443205)

Uhmm. What is your free market solution? Whoever has the most powerful transmitter wins? How is the FCC enforcing fairness any different than it enforcing licensing and ownership of spectrum. Unless you really think that it should just be a matter of most power transmitted wins then you have to concede that there will be some kind of enforcement. Ultimately by force presumably. The TSA is entirely irrelevant to the what we're talking about.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442485)

Um, the free market doesn't exist in the US. Get over that fact.
 
Secondly, you keep acting like the only motivation is for the FCC to let private industry profit from this without bothering to see that the US government is spending money like water and trying everything it can to keep up the pace of intake before it implodes. So while you're bullshit post tries to make us feel like the government is the victim to private enterprise the truth is that private enterprise is doing what it's suppose to, it's the government that is fucking over the working Americans because it can't contain it's own agendas.
 
The FCC has about as much interest in private enterprise solving any problem as I do about who wins the 2017 South American Bobsled Championship.

I agree and stop the racism! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442159)

Why does the white space get special treatment?! What about the Black space or the yellow space or the red space?

When will America treat TV spaces based upon its character and not upon its color?!

When will the Black space get treated as a TRUE EMF that it deserves?!

I have a dream ...

OK, not going that far with my pun. I have a little class.

Re:I agree and stop the racism! (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#44442317)

to be fair, the red space will always be at the bottom of the pack. violet space FTW!

Re:I agree and stop the racism! (1)

unitron (5733) | about 8 months ago | (#44442465)

to be fair, the red space will always be at the bottom of the pack. violet space FTW!

Bottom of the pack?

Let's unzip and compare wavelength.

Re:I agree and stop the racism! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 8 months ago | (#44443685)

Bottom of the pack?

Let's unzip and compare wavelength.

Believe me: when the sustained vibrations are slow (with a late trend towards being non-existent), the lenght becomes irrelevant!
(judging by your ID, I shouldn't be the one to tell you. You should have already discovered it on your own).

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (3, Interesting)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 8 months ago | (#44442521)

I would like to see a system similar to the electric utility. A regulated company handles the actual towers and the mobile providers provide service and support.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442765)

We can't have that. Then Verizon and AT&T wouldn't be making billions. Your congresscritter wants their stock to go up so they can have a nice vacation home.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#44443463)

I don't think that would work too well.

This wonderful 2.4ghz "unlicensed free for all" utopia you speak of only works in the way you see it because devices that use it seldom reach beyond your domicile. So of course, you can have millions of them being all happy go lucky because they are too far away to bother one another on a large scale.

But when you start dealing with devices that communicate over several miles, then you're going to run into problems. Especially when everybody decides that they all want to use the low frequency spectrum due to its high penetration and long range, further complicated by the fact that it offers less bandwidth.

And then there's the issue of orthogonal frequencies. These modulation techniques (such as that used by LTE) only work when everybody on that channel is using the same modulation technique and even then agrees on how they'll handle contention. All it takes is for some derp to use some incompatible modulation technique on the same frequency to kick everybody else off, either that or some other derp to decide he wants his datacenter backbone to run off of that band and eats up the channel, telling everybody else to go pound salt.

The current licensed model isn't perfect, but it works.

Re:keep it and manage it like roads and airspace (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about 8 months ago | (#44443951)

I'm not usually for greater regulation in any sense...but here I totally agree w you. We shouldn't stifle innovation for cash.

another sellout (0)

slick7 (1703596) | about 8 months ago | (#44442131)

The CONgressMEN have sold us (US?) out, now they're selling out what they don't own, the electromagnetic spectrum. Is this a fire sale where everything must go?

Re:another sellout (1, Offtopic)

bogaboga (793279) | about 8 months ago | (#44442303)

The CONgressMEN have sold us (US?) out, now they're selling out what they don't own, the electromagnetic spectrum. Is this a fire sale where everything must go?

Don't you folks in the USA "preach" to the world that you've got the "greatest" democracy?

I think it's in order to revise this mantra, no?

Re:another sellout (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442867)

Greatest doesn't mean "good", it just means the best of the crap that exists now.

Re:another sellout (1)

innerweb (721995) | about 8 months ago | (#44443891)

Technically, not a Democracy, just a Republic. But, Dictators call themselves presidents, so who cares? As far as greatest... at what? We fail healthcare, education, crime, social division, racism, debt management. corruption, ... But for me it is the greatest. Not because of laws or anything, but my friends are all here. 8)

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442135)

He's a democrat - the summary seemed to leave out a party

Re:Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (0)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 8 months ago | (#44442501)

yes. This is basic common sense.

At the moment, the democrats control the Senate; the republicans control the House. Any house chair is a republican; any senate chair is a democrat.

Re:Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (2)

DaHat (247651) | about 8 months ago | (#44442563)

If it was common sense then referring highlighting either party in the subject was not needed... and yet what we see here is another case of 'guess the party' where when something bad ("zomg! wifi will be less cool & powerful in the future if this goes through!") is said about a politician in print... if they are a republican it is fairly common to make sure to highlight their party membership... while if it is a democrat their affiliation is conveniently left out.

Re:Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#44443613)

Why even care about the party? It's the same crap no matter what side it comes from. I myself tend to favor the republican viewpoint, but the more you pay attention to the way things work, the more you realize that it really doesn't matter. These politicians will go towards whatever gets them the votes at the next election - whether that means falling in line with a major campaign sponsor or falling in line with major public sentiment at the time. They seldom make decisions based on principle, even the ones who you otherwise think have integrity.

The Republican/Democrat war is basically just a show. Think like watching a football game where you have Cowboys fans who hate Bills fans. Nobody really knows why they hate the fans of the other team, they just do. Tons of liberals are pro second amendment yet even the ones who are still vote for politicians who want to ban firearms just because they got that D next to their name. Likewise, tons of conservatives are all for smaller government, yet they still vote for big spenders just because they have that R next to their name. It's all a bunch of nonsense. Personally I'm not even bothering to register to vote anymore, the show can go on without me. Picking the lesser of two evils in an election is a horrible idea because you're giving that lesser evil your endorsement. If you just stop voting for them period then they have no endorsement. So what if your lack of a vote causes the more evil one to win? When has that actually made things worse? I mean look, we have fucking race baiting, domestic spying, nobel prize winning Obama in office, how much worse can things get?

It feels good not to vote for them, it's like when I canceled my cable subscription so ESPN doesn't collect $10 a month from me anymore, and I think if enough people do it you might actually see some change where the cable providers finally shed expensive content providers, and should that day ever come it might be worth paying for again.

Re:Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 8 months ago | (#44443871)

while if it is a democrat their affiliation is conveniently left out

Its worse than that. What you actually see is: "Rep. Harry Reid" when its a story that makes Harry Reid, a Democrat, look bad.

Re:Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 8 months ago | (#44444099)

while if it is a democrat their affiliation is conveniently left out

Its worse than that. What you actually see is: "Rep. Harry Reid" when its a story that makes Harry Reid, a Democrat, look bad.

Actually, a story referring to "Rep. Harry Reid" and not referring to the time period from 1983 to 1986 would either 1) be referring to somebody other than the Harry Reid most likely to appear in US news stories or 2) make its author (or editor) look bad, given that Harry Reid's been a senator since 1987....

Sell It All! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442139)

Sell it all at any price. Rather than responsible fiscal restraints and a balanced budget (either by cutting spending, raising taxes or both) we're going to raise money by selling stuff. Biggest garage sale ever. Next we'll be auctioning off the animals at the Washington Zoo and photo ops with the guy in Grant's Tomb.

Re:Sell It All! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442219)

its just unused dead air that has been rotting for half a decade so everyone can get shitter tv service

Picking winners and losers (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 8 months ago | (#44442145)

So congress is trying to pick winners and losers in the tech space?

Re:Picking winners and losers (1, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 8 months ago | (#44442197)

no, all frequencies are sold off to the highest bidder to do with as they please as long as they follow the rules for that block. only reason TV frequencies were free was because the stations agreed to free broadcasts

Re:Picking winners and losers (4, Informative)

unitron (5733) | about 8 months ago | (#44442503)

no, all frequencies are sold off to the highest bidder to do with as they please as long as they follow the rules for that block. only reason TV frequencies were free was because the stations agreed to free broadcasts

When TV first came along, TV frequencies were licensed to broadcasters to operate "in the public interest", same as with radio.

That was back before some gang of idiots got the idea to sell irreplaceable spectrum instead of just license or lease it.

May they suffer many various and sundry unpleasantries the rest of their days.

Re:Picking winners and losers (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 8 months ago | (#44442505)

Your sense of history is mistaken. Frequencies have differing propogation characteristics. In 1935 when the first FCA was signed, the FCC did what it could. Microwaves were a dream back then, and color TV as we knew it until HD was in the test stages.

Various channels were laid out with space in between because receivers used tubes, and had thermal drifting problems. There were many kinds of television broadcasters and there still are. Certain segments allocated to TV require licenses that do broadcast without the need for descramblers. Then HD changed all that, we shrank the available spectrum for TV broadcast licenses, and tried to free up frequencies in the valuable UHF region. It didn't quite work as planned.

That Congress is trying to monetize the allocation falls in with the current attitude towards selling all sorts of assets in a mad-dash to cut the national debt. I'll leave the goodness of that to another time.

But your basic premise is incorrect, and is historically incorrect. You might want to read up on the Federal Communications Act of 1935, and then look at the history of broadcasting for more astute answers.

Re:Picking winners and losers (2)

postbigbang (761081) | about 8 months ago | (#44442529)

And more to the point: the allocations right now are pretty generous in the 5Ghz region. It takes only new and more interesting modulation techniques to double and double and double the data rates for those allocations. This has been done in WiFi and its antecedents many times now. It'll happen again.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442165)

Another 57 channels and still nothing on

Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (3, Informative)

Bob_Who (926234) | about 8 months ago | (#44442171)

They are bought and paid for.

Its our bandwidth and they're selling it off to their corporate cronies.

Where's the outrage, America ?

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 8 months ago | (#44442241)

the outrage should have been when they took all this space, kicked everyone off, gave out millions in 40$ coupons, made everyone with a tv antenna buy new boxes, amplifiers and arrays just to let the shit rot for a half decade

least now when I cant watch the news it might be because there is something better in the air, not cause some half retarded president got talked into flipping the switch for no reason

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442761)

Damn dude. It sounds like the FCC shot and killed your father...on the TV. I know you just want everyone off your lawn, that you still want to wear that onion on your belt cause it was the style when you were 'cool' but times have moved on. You really loved analog TV THAT much? Do you still curse the government because they forced people to stop using mercury, asbestos, lead paint, or DDT? Do you shake your wrinkled old fist to the skies every time you go out to the garage and don't have the utter JOY of hand cranking your Model T? I bet you weep buckets of tears when you reach for the power button on your PC and don't see that Turbo button next to it. You lament the fact that your computer no longer has a parallel port for your dot matrix printer. Swapping TV over to digital was inevitable. You know what else is inevitable? Eventually you are gonna have to throw away that damned CRT TV because what we think is luxury Blu Ray HD will become standard definition while all the early adopters are watching thier holo-tv's.

And let's say for the sake of argument that you agreed that the switch was necessary. So why the outrage? Cause the gov "gave out millions in 40$ coupons" So then you are one of those ultra conservative asshat libertarians or stingy-ass poor-hating republicans. The gov spent your money (probably a whole 0.00023 pennies) to enable Jefro or Trayvon to sit on thier couch all day, higher than fuck, raking in that damned welfare check while watching Honey Boo Boo. Goddamned the audacity of such a government!

Oh that one isn't correct either? Alright. I claim you are Scandanavian but since those guys are pretty liberal and love the poor, you didn't fit and they ran you off here to the states. Clues? Your name is Osgeld. The dollar sign goes before the 40, not after it like a euro sign. Americans don't call antennae arrays usually. Oh but all that isn't actual proof is it? Well I can't be 100% certain you're a foreigner after all. What else then?

GREAT SCOTT!! I figured it out. All I did was look above at the title bar and it spelled it right out for me: FLAMEBAIT! You're a goddamned troll! Get outta here troll. Back under your bridge. I just gave you tree fiddy yesterday and I ain't givin you no mo money!

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 8 months ago | (#44443107)

I didnt bother reading your pointless ramble, but let me put it to you this way, the only thing I watch on TV is the news and on occasion the local sports team

Where I live I can no longer do either with DTV as its so damn bad its just a broken up slide show

yay innovation

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

toejam13 (958243) | about 8 months ago | (#44443829)

Just because the transition to digital was bad for you doesn't mean that it was bad for everyone.

I used to live at a place where most of the analog stations suffered from light noise and phase errors. When it rained, people were purple and green. When an airplane passed overhead, there was significant interference, esp on channels 2-6. A few of the stations on the VHF band suffered from adjacent-channel interference. One suffered from co-channel interference.

After the transition, my channels are all free of noise and color defects. The resolution is noticeably sharper. The only drawback was that a pair of fringe stations disappeared. Getting off my ass and installing a VHF-Hi/UHF antenna in the attic solved that issue.

And remember that one major reason a lot of people lost channels is because stations on the VHF-Lo band (Band I; ch 2-6) moved to UHF, not because of the switch from analog to digital. While UHF suffers from greater atmospheric absorption and line-of-sight issues, it suffers from less engine impulse noise and requires smaller antennas. In North America, there were vague plans about extending VHF radio (Band II) from 88MHz down to 54MHz after television departed. Might actually happen some day.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

adolf (21054) | about 8 months ago | (#44444491)

I used to get several stations that were useable. Sure, there was usually snow, and it sometimes looked very ugly due to other conditions. And sometimes, by George, they looked great and pristine, as if I had a finely-tuned C-band dish in the back yard.

Whatever the case, I could always follow the local news, or enjoy a sitcom.

Now I get one channel. And it doesn't even have local news. (I do receive it perfectly, in glorious 1080i and without the ghosting that was prevalent before on that particular channel, but that does not mean that I feel that an improvement has been made. ATSC is not a very good standard for fringe areas.)

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44445107)

to be fair, the ONLY thing those coupons did is raise the cost of D2A boxes by $40.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (2)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#44442255)

Unless you plan to use that bandwidth with your mind it needs to be partitioned for specific commercial uses, so that companies call sell you products that benefit you.

What's messed up is that, apparently in a quest to raise every last dollar possible without lowering spending or raising taxes, they're auctioning it all off as monopoly interests, rather than setting aside chucks for "any consumer device that follows there rules". That would still benefit companies, of course, but it wouldn't be granting monopolies for a fee. I do so hate mercantilism.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

Pharoah_69 (2866937) | about 8 months ago | (#44442417)

beaten down, suffering, and mentally numb/scared.

When will the battle between the Borg and the Federation (i.e "Fear") end.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

gmanterry (1141623) | about 8 months ago | (#44442513)

They are bought and paid for.

Its our bandwidth and they're selling it off to their corporate cronies.

Where's the outrage, America ?

The outrage is in the same place the outrage against the NSA spying on U.S. citizens is. It aint. It sees today, apathy is our greatest product.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442671)

It's because everyone have been shafted. People not standing up for other people's rights has made the public apathetic. In other words, why the heck is anyone going to fight for your cause when you weren't fighting for mine? This was all predicted far before any of us was born.

Re:Congress would sell off anything for fast bucks (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 8 months ago | (#44442953)

FCC doesn't care about the people. The government is supposed to regulate business so the businesses don't screw us so hard. The opposite is true now. Businesses buy off politicians so they can screw us twice as hard. I'll just leave this here. [nytimes.com]

is the super wifi going to be free? (2)

alen (225700) | about 8 months ago | (#44442191)

unless google, microsoft and others agree to cover something like 80% of the US population with free wifi in the next 2-3 years there is no reason not to sell it off. why does it matter if we pay the cell phone carriers or google/microsoft?

Re:is the super wifi going to be free? (1)

Anubis350 (772791) | about 8 months ago | (#44442275)

How would keeping it unlicensed for new wireless tech pay google/MS (I suppose you could argue indirectly in that their devices would be using the spectrum, but that's true of any cellular uses it could be used for too)

Re:is the super wifi going to be free? (1)

alen (225700) | about 8 months ago | (#44442369)

why would google or MS offer free wifi access points?

we have public wifi in NYC and you have to pay for it. wifi is useless unless the access point is connected to the internet

Re:is the super wifi going to be free? (1)

Intropy (2009018) | about 8 months ago | (#44442551)

They wouldn't own that band anymore than Linksys owns the wifi band. Anyone with a device that obeys the band's rules could broadcast into it.

Re:is the super wifi going to be free? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44442291)

WiFi runs on ISM bands. Google, Microsoft, etc. wouldn't own those bands any more than they or anyone else own the current WiFi (ISM) bands. By contrast the cellular providers own the spectrum they buy.

So? (1)

denmarkw00t (892627) | about 8 months ago | (#44442349)

Maybe I'm missing something, but why don't companies like Google et al just lease the parts of the spectrum they want then? Why is this bad news for them - b/c they have to shell out $ or b/c they won't be able to participate? If it's the latter, then that's a bummer, but the former? Drop some cash, damn.

Re:So? (1)

Intropy (2009018) | about 8 months ago | (#44442567)

They don't want to own the band, they want the band to be open for everyone and to produce devices that YOU can use in that band. The difference isn't like that between two tv stations. It's more like the difference between a tv station and everyone's walkie talkies.

Re:So? (1)

denmarkw00t (892627) | about 8 months ago | (#44442857)

So what if someone purchased or licensed it and then just made it available to all?

Re:So? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 8 months ago | (#44445103)

You mean like if a some group of people got together chipped in a bit of their income and organized to manage a community resource to help nearly everyone or generally benefit society? Well we'd need a set of rules for making sure everyone got a fair shake at it. Then we'd need some officers to oversee it. Oh wait, one of these groups already has the spectrum and they are about to sell it to private companies so they don't have to ask you for more money for other stuff.

Don't give a crap (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#44442493)

The 600MHz band is used for TV in most parts of the world. In non-USA places the old UHF 700MHz band is being sold for 4G networks, while 600 is still used to digital tv.

More technology that can't be used anywhere by USA is of no concern to me.

Maybe I'm just bitter because my government doesn't allow me any used of 900M and 1.2G.

More spectrum more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442583)

Early termination fees, contracts, overprices proprietary hardware, firmware, drivers, overpriced data, tracking, spyware

short sighted (2)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about 8 months ago | (#44442615)

Radio (waves and their regulations) isn't my area of expertise, but I think this is very short sighted. It seems a better use for this band would be to wait until a new technology or service comes is developed that could make good use of this band, until then, it should be public domain or off limits. I say this because producing innovative goods and services grows the US economy (and the governments tax income with it) since at the very foundation money is just an abstraction of energy/labor that is easy to quantify and exchange. If some of the potential buyers have an innovative idea that uses this band of the spectrum, they can contact the FCC and get a license to operate devices on it. But just selling it to a buyer now for an arbitrary amount seems like it would prevent anyone with an idea that could improve lives and American society to act on the idea.

They aren't really selling it are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442623)

It would be a huge mistake to really sell it. I'm sure they are leasing blocks in the spectrum, not outright selling them.

Communism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442625)

So the choice is between corporate control, of unregulated use? I think not. I choose communism.

Suppose the federal government operated an internet utility. It could hire (via competitive bidding of course) companies to install equipment that operates on these frequencies. This equipment would implement what ever standards the government requested in the contract, producing a nationwide fully compatible network paid for by the government. They could (if desired) raise the money by charging for high speed access after some data cap.

This same idea, if applied to Cell towers would remove the need for overlapping competing networks. Given that we have ~4 major such networks, with removing the competition the average cell radios could drop to 1/2 of the current value, effectively doubling bandwidth or quartering power. The competitive pricing would be moved the bidding to provide towers so there would still be competition to keep prices in check. This would have a lower barrier to entry and providing entire networks, so we should expect better competition.

Also, since this model users make their contracts with a single provider (the government), there is no need to waste all that money advertising the networks, which further improves the cost efficiency of the system.

Re:Communism! (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#44443715)

Communism is fine until everybody decides that they'd rather play world of warcraft instead of work. That's why communist economies have always deteriorating GDP in spite of population growth. Look at the Icarians, they had an entire town with all facilities and infrastructure pre-built just handed to them for free, yet they eventually had to resort to forcing people to work, in spite of only accepting people who already had a good work ethic into their commune. Eventually they fell apart, just like nearly all communist societies have done.

The only communist societies that lasted longer than a few decades were able to do so because they put up laws that would just bull whip people into submission if they weren't working enough. The communist societies who haven't fallen apart peacefully converted to capitalism. Compare that to conversion to communism which always involves violent revolution and forced re-education camps.

Also communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff.

Re:Communism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44443793)

Nice pre-canned communism rant. You kinda missed the point though: the proposal was for government control over a portion (horizontally integrated) market to prevent vertical integration and allow efficient use of the resource (spectrum) by the people. It still is built on the government utility hiring companies via a capitalist bidding process for providing the actual infrastructure. Reason I called it communist was mostly a joke on that the customers interact with the government, not with competing companies.

Perhaps that isn't really communist at all, just a minimal socialist style utility interacting with a capitalist marketplace. Please object that its not actually totally communist, not that total communism is doomed to fail (which is true, but not too relevant). I agree that pure communism (and also pure capitalism) is hopeless and doomed to fail. I figured that was obvious by now.

Whatever that model is called, I like it. It solves the tragedy of the commons problem with the spectrum. I haven't see any other suggestions that don't suck.

Re:Communism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44444599)

Public roads are communist. How dare people people get from point a to point b without paying a private company! Public roads cause people to want to go to the beach instead of going to work. If they paid a private company for roads, they would only go to places that matter, like work. Public roads have weakened America's moral fiber. If we privatize all roads, America will be great again.

Congress wants FCC to TAX US Innovation to Death (1)

ka9dgx (72702) | about 8 months ago | (#44442723)

What Congress really wants is to strip away the possibility that some new innovation might happen within our borders, and bring jobs back into the country. This would result in real economic growth, and reduce the excuses to give Trillions away to their banker buddies as the Country swirls down the drain.

Re:Congress wants FCC to TAX US Innovation to Deat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442859)

I'd say with their love of patent lawsuits private companies are busy doing the same.

And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44442797)

So they want the FCC to sell off the last remaining free space. Then what is left for future development?

Easy fix (3, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 8 months ago | (#44442967)

If you sell it like a fixed resource, you'll get high fees for access and discouraged use... like what we have now for phone and internet service (high monthly fees, data caps and rationed "minutes", kicking out high users, &c).

If you owned a museum which was wildly popular (say, "Mecca" as a museum) you'd hike up the ticket prices as high as you could, and would be under no incentive to improve the experience. If, on the other hand you could only charge a fixed upper price per person, then you have incentive to push more people through the museum - you'd upgrade the infrastructure to handle more people.

Change the model. If you have a fixed resource, sell it with the restriction that you can only charge for usage.

If the spectrum was sold with the restriction that you could only charge $.02 per gigabyte or less, then companies could only make money by encouraging higher usage. Instead of high monthly fees and discouraged use, companies would encourage innovative new applications, home servers, and high bandwidth.

The FCC could set the price equivalent to what is now charged under the fixed-resource model, so that companies wouldn't make any less than they do now.

But the model will change: companies would have to compete for users by improving the experience and encouraging use.

It's a Game Theory [wikipedia.org] thing.

Re:Easy fix (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 months ago | (#44443419)

If you owned a museum which was wildly popular (say, "Mecca" as a museum) you'd hike up the ticket prices as high as you could, and would be under no incentive to improve the experience. If, on the other hand you could only charge a fixed upper price per person, then you have incentive to push more people through the museum - you'd upgrade the infrastructure to handle more people.

It's a Game Theory thing.

Funny that you picked Mecca. Saudi Arabia is & has been spending 10s of billions to upgrade or build roads, trains, elevated metro, housing, mosques and other infrastructure in and around Mecca + other holy sites.

Why? Because game theory doesn't apply to everything all the time.
An alternative explanation is that this is a really expensive way to continue 200 years of destroying religious sites around Mecca that the Wahhabis don't like

/Their single metro line is the busiest line in the world and one of the busiest metro systems in the world
//They're going to add three more lines at a cost of $16 billion.

Re:Easy fix (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#44443743)

That's only going to last as long as their oil reserves continue to sell though. Their economy doesn't really produce much else (glancing at wiki indicates that only 10% of their GDP comes from non-oil sources.)

Re:Easy fix (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 8 months ago | (#44443879)

Funny that you picked Mecca. Saudi Arabia is & has been spending 10s of billions to upgrade or build roads, trains, elevated metro, housing, mosques and other infrastructure in and around Mecca + other holy sites.

Why? Because game theory doesn't apply to everything all the time.

So, you're saying that Mecca is, in fact run like a museum? You're saying that Saudi Arabia charges admission?

Would your point be valid if Mecca weren't run like a museum?

I'm not sure what you're saying here... if Mecca isn't being run like a museum and at the same time it isn't changed like it would be if it were a museum...

Do you know a hawk from a handsaw?

Re:Easy fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44444893)

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

The practical truth is that price controls (limits) of a limited resource cause shortages, and price controls (floors) cause surpluses.

The simple law of supply and demand is called a "law" for a reason. It always works, and has never been broken.

That was a fast slashdotting (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 8 months ago | (#44443105)

That was a fast slashdotting. Running on DSL? Isn't there a way for Slashdot to test these sites first?

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44443133)

Channel 56! Channel 56! Going once, going twice... Got an offer of $40K! Going once, going twice... Sold!

Re:So... (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 8 months ago | (#44443149)

Everything above channel 51 has been sold, already. I'd like to buy channel 37.

Re:So... (1)

MexiCali59 (1824682) | about 8 months ago | (#44444411)

They are planning to allow some unlicensed use in channel 37, provided the devices don't interfere with medical devices and the other uses in that channel.

Vote not auction (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 8 months ago | (#44443155)

The various companies who want the spectrum should be able to make a few 2 minute spots, not be allowed to spend 1 cent marketing, and then have the public vote on their getting the spectrum. There should be none of this making them spend billions on the spectrum and then charge billions to us to use it. My guess is that the company that promised the best service would get the spectrum. This should be a run off system where there are run-offs with eliminations until one company gets 50% of the vote.

Also companies should be able to lose their spectrum in the same way. Basically they would have to apply to keep it by describing what they did with it while other companies would describe what they would do with it. The threshold would need to be higher but if say 70% voted for a company to lose the spectrum it would be re-auctioned. In Canada the big 3 would lose all their spectrum.

Can't anything be left free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44444035)

With everyone buying all bandwidth and transmission space available, there will be nothing left for free ham radio or home garage inventors to use.

We could give the wireless corps DC to daylight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44444657)

And the wireless caps will remain 5 Gb. It's not bandwidth scarcity behind America's high wireless costs, it's good old fashioned greed. They will only build minimal infrastructure at maximum profit. They will not spend money so they can offer double the bandwidth at the same price unless a competitor forces them to. Luckily for them there are very few competitors and buying up the whole spectrum is a great way to prevent one from gaining a foothold.

Whitespace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44445375)

This is true, MSFT and GOOGLE are letting VZ and T get more spectrum they dont need. They dont even use what they have at all in many areas and use the other amounts in efficiently. Congress is being paid by VZ and T and the people get bad over priced cell service with caps....The FCC is on the carriers side, bought the spectrum crunch idea and then you have carriers selling and not using what they have.....Its a shame MSFT and GOOGLE are a sleep at the wheel

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