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FCC Head Wants New Wireless Devices Unlocked

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the maybe-in-a-few-years-innovation dept.

Communications 221

[TheBORG] writes with news that FCC chairman Kevin Martin wants 700-MHz wireless devices and services to be unlocked. Spectrum auctions for the 700-MHz airwaves, being opened up for fixed and mobile broadband, are scheduled for early next year. "The proposed rules would apply only to the spectrum being auctioned, not the rest of the wireless business, which still makes most of its revenue from voice calls. But Martin's proposal, if adopted by the FCC, could reverberate through a U.S. wireless industry that has tightly controlled access to devices and services... Like most devices sold in the USA, the iPhone ... allows only features and applications that Apple and AT&T provide and works only with an AT&T contract. The FCC chairman said he has grown increasingly concerned that the current practices 'hamper innovations' dreamed up by outside developers. One example:... 'Internationally, Wi-Fi handsets have been available for some time,' Martin noted. 'But they are just beginning to roll out here.'"

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Is this as good as it sounds? (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19815823)

It sounds good but I have a sneaking suspicion something in there is going to bite us in the ass. What is it?

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (2, Funny)

internetcommie (945194) | about 7 years ago | (#19815911)

Yeah, I wonder too! Is the FCC Chairman really suggesting that we should allow free competition here in the USA, or am I imagining things?

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#19815933)

high hidden fees

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 years ago | (#19816005)

This only applys to a newly auctioned off part of the spectrum. So in other words, it's business as usual if you don't purchase that spectrum space. My guess would be this is to try to artifically charge the cell-phone companies more (in terms of lost revenue), so that some other type of company can outbid them in the auction.

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#19816591)

This only applys to a newly auctioned off part of the spectrum
True, but how long until the market ensures that it happens in other parts? At the moment, mobile providers don't offer this kind of service because it would cut their voice and SMS profits. If one provider did, then how long could the others remain competitive? These rules would force one provider (whoever buys the new frequencies) to, which should have a knock-on effect on the other parts of the market.

I really don't understand why voice data is so much cheaper than other data for a mobile phone. Voice has all sorts of guaranteed bandwidth / latency requirements, while things like HTTP can just be squeezed into spare channels and bursted when there is spare capacity without issue, yet the data used for HTTP costs more. Why not let users run whatever they want, respect QoS flags in the packets, and charge more for ones with stricter requirements?

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (1, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19816079)

It sounds good but I have a sneaking suspicion something in there is going to bite us in the ass. What is it?
Off-topic? What the hell? This is one of the few frist prosts that's actually on-topic. Do you people mod the first dozen posts down as force of habit?

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816111)

It sounds good but I have a sneaking suspicion something in there is going to bite us in the ass. What is it?

It's your rabid hatred of the Bush administration and your inability to go on a tirade about this.

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (-1, Troll)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19816335)

It sounds good but I have a sneaking suspicion something in there is going to bite us in the ass. What is it?
It's your rabid hatred of the Bush administration and your inability to go on a tirade about this.
Oh my, this is so precious! Come here, everyone! This anonymous coward is making his first baby steps towards political satire. Oh, wait, nevermind, it's just a dirty diaper. But soon maybe you'll be able to use the big boy toilet and make boom boom like an adult, yes?

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816467)

Heh, sounds like I nailed it.

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (0, Flamebait)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19816515)

Heh, sounds like I nailed it.
If by "nailed" you mean "shat" and by "it" you mean "myself, spectacularly," then yes, yes, you did.

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (0, Offtopic)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | about 7 years ago | (#19816585)

You're trying to troll an AC? That's impressively dumb.

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (1)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | about 7 years ago | (#19816155)

It sounds good but I have a sneaking suspicion something in there is going to bite us in the ass. What is it?

I know what you mean. Superficially, it sounds like a good idea, but based on Kevin Martin's track record, I've gotta believe there's a worm in this apple somewhere....

Re:Is this as good as it sounds? (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#19816333)

I love that we cannot trust our government.

I TOO had the same reaction... "Who is to benefit from this initiative? What's the catch?!"

As a people, we're just unaccustomed to anything but self-interested actions by and through government activity. It's not cynicism, it's just the plain unbiased truth. The only time any government units will feel inclined to serve the people or community is near election time... it was kind of like the mysterious way gasoline prices dropped during the last elections.

So I hope people have their thinking caps on and are considering if this may be yet another way to screw us. If they are pushing for something as simple as "no more locked devices" then I'll just be amazed.

Whoa... (5, Funny)

Abalamahalamatandra (639919) | about 7 years ago | (#19815827)

Who is this guy and why hasn't Bush fired him yet?

Actually, he is a Bushite (3, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | about 7 years ago | (#19816093)

Actually he is a Bush appointee. He was one of the lawyers/advisers to Bush and Chenney in the 2000 election. He was then coat tailed into the White House as a legal aid working with the FCC and on some other telecomm/technology groups. He worked in the FCC under the previous FCC Chair before Bush nominated/appointed him to the Chair in 2005. His wife is one of Chenney's aids to boot.

My first thought is that Haliburton is getting into the wireless device industry and doesn't want to have to play nice with the existing heavily stacked market. Remember, the only thing better than big business to a Neo-Con is a big business that the Neo-Con has investments in.

-Rick

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (4, Funny)

that IT girl (864406) | about 7 years ago | (#19816217)

Or maybe, just maybe, he actually hired someone with a decent idea in his head.

It could happen.

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816263)

Bush? Decent Idea? Unlikely.

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 7 years ago | (#19816345)

Well if you throw enough rocks at a coffe cup, one of them has to land in it eventually.

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (1)

Drgnkght (449916) | about 7 years ago | (#19816853)

True, but you're far more likely to brake the cup first.

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (1)

Drgnkght (449916) | about 7 years ago | (#19816939)

Bah, I previewed that one too... Previous post should say "break".

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 7 years ago | (#19816349)

I agree, I think it is a good idea. But I don't think the idea has the will of the American people at it's heart. It is a business decision, and the hope is that it will lead to more innovation, IP, jobs, sales, and taxes.

-Rick

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (2, Insightful)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | about 7 years ago | (#19816903)

More often than not, decisions which are good for business are good for the American people if those decisions lead to more products or more uses for existing products. If this opening up of the handset is good for the phone companies, they might expand their business and hire more people. And maybe there'll be new companies starting up to take advantage of the new opportunities, thus hiring more people. And maybe those new companies will get some venture capital, making the money circulate around instead of sitting in someone's pockets.

Re:Actually, he is a Bushite (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 7 years ago | (#19816409)

Or maybe, just maybe, he actually hired someone with a decent idea in his head.

Yeah, they can't catch them all in the screening process ;)

Re:Whoa... (1)

Luscious868 (679143) | about 7 years ago | (#19816321)

Bush should act immediately. The man should be placed in Gitmo! This new found wireless "freedom" will only make the terrorists hate us more.

Re:Whoa... (3, Insightful)

Etrias (1121031) | about 7 years ago | (#19816427)

You're assuming Bush fires anyone. If it's good for us, just wait for the eventual announcement saying he's retiring to spend more time with his family.

Re:Whoa... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816785)

Who is this guy and why hasn't Bush fired him yet?
As if the FCC was any better about these issues during the Clinton years...

Face it, the business of American is business. This is good for the economy, but not always good for the consumer.

First post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19815833)

Yeah, yeah. In Soviet Russia the FCC locks you!

This doesn't seem very capitalist?

Say it ain't so.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19815839)

First?

Say it ain't so!! (3, Funny)

Enrique1218 (603187) | about 7 years ago | (#19815861)

A public official actually concerned about businesses reaming the consumer. What has become of the United States?

Re:Say it ain't so!! (3, Informative)

paulthomas (685756) | about 7 years ago | (#19816121)

Kevin Martin actually isn't that great of a guy. [slashdot.org]

Aside from this, I agree with the premise that phones shouldn't be artificially locked to a network, but I think that this is an issue for customers of cell phone manufacturers and not an FCC issue. I can buy and use an unlocked phone right now and use it with my current AT&T plan. I just won't have AT&T subsidizing the purchase.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 7 years ago | (#19816305)

The problem is that specific models are designed so that, even if you could unlock them, certain features will only work with a specific carrier. Even if you could buy an unlocked iPhone for example, most of its features are only going to work with AT&T. What is necessary in the U.S. isn't just an unlocked phone, but phones which use an agreed upon standard to work the same across all the major carriers (like a computer, which works basically the same no matter which ISP you choose). Why more consumers aren't demanding this, I have no idea.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (3, Insightful)

paulthomas (685756) | about 7 years ago | (#19816375)

Why more consumers aren't demanding this, I have no idea.
I would guess it has something to do with intellectual laziness, in which a subsidized phone from a provider is considered "free." I think a lot of people do not think of a phone as something that they can purchase from someone outside of their service provider.

Interesting points about the need for standards. Hopefully we'll see standards evolve over time to incorporate things that aren't currently standard, like visual voicemail.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816611)

For more information on this topic, go back in time before the Bell Telephone monopoly was broken up into baby Bells. There were many forms of consumer abuse by the company, but among them was an effort to prevent people from owning their phones and to prevent them from using any phone they wanted. Although I'm sure part of this was driven by other manufacturers interested in getting into the phone equipment selling business, the justification for the breakup and the new rules were supposed to be to correct the abuse done to consumers through Bell's practices.

Fast forward to the latter 20th and early 21st century and we see the same pattern of abuse occuring. Now it is with wireless carriers locking you in with specific phone models. Certain carriers have exclusive deals for certain models of phone and you never know which carrier will get the coolest phone next... though 9+ out of 10 times, T-Mobile will not have access to that phone for the next two years if ever. (T-Mobile is my carrier...)

If I understand this proposed initiative, it could mean all phones will be sold unlocked removing that form of customer abuse.

Would this result in an end to the "free" or "very discounted phone?" Or perhaps some other form of customer abuse will come next? (Look at the news about how Sprint is booting their top-complaining customers... I wonder if those unfortunates will have trouble getting on with other carriers? Is this the next form of customer abuse to come?)

To a certain extent (4, Interesting)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 7 years ago | (#19816557)

The problem is that specific models are designed so that, even if you could unlock them, certain features will only work with a specific carrier. Even if you could buy an unlocked iPhone for example, most of its features are only going to work with AT&T.

That may be true to a certain extent, but not totally true. For example the inability to install J2ME apps straight from your computer and the inability to use Bluetooth are examples of elements that are limitations that are imposed limitations and not technology limitations. There are some features that are actually provided by the network and can be added to any phone. For example when I traveled to New Zealand I had got my cellphone unlocked in Singapore and was using a Vodaphone pay as you go SIM. I suddenly found that you get a special Vodaphone sub menu with a whole bunch of extras.

In many ways I support the move by the FCC, since it would help change the business method of cell phone carriers. It would also highlight the limitations of any given carrier, instead of making it seem to be the limitations of the cell phone. Sure it would mean that cell phone carriers would have to compete on both wireless packages and wireless phone prices, but if that helps drive the market then even better. In fact having the cell phone manufacturers play a more active role in the support of their phones would also be a welcome change, since delegating this to the carriers is usually just asking for trouble.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#19816521)

I can buy and use an unlocked phone right now and use it with my current AT&T plan. I just won't have AT&T subsidizing the purchase.

I don't know what the exact policies on these things are, but I've run into trouble with this. T-Mobile wouldn't sell me data services because I had an unlocked phone, and a friend of mine had the same problem with Verizon.

Therefore, I don't believe it's as simple as you imply. The government might have to step in and require carriers to offer unlocked phones for an increased price and/or cease penalizing customers who buy unlocked phones. If carriers want to subsidize phones, it should be enough that the consumer is required to enter into a contract. Locking the phone shouldn't be necessary.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (1)

wkk2 (808881) | about 7 years ago | (#19816751)

I purchased two unlocked Nokia E61 phones so I could get wifi. I had to purchase them through an importer in the USA at a substantial price. AT&T doesn't give me a discount even though they never subsidize anything. What's worse is trying to get technical support with a phone problem. One beeps multiple times apparently when the phone is pinged. US Nokia: we don't support the E61 since it isn't sold here. UK Nokia: We can't answer your email since you are in the US, ...

The root cause is the carriers define the phone and the customers don't get any say in the matter. We need open standards just like what was forced on the industry for POTS service.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816569)

Aside from this, I agree with the premise that phones shouldn't be artificially locked to a network, but I think that this is an issue for customers of cell phone manufacturers and not an FCC issue.

Actually the issue affects a far wider range of people than the cell phone manufacturers and their customers.

An enormous amount of resources is wasted every time a consumer switches to a new phone when they switch to different carrier.

The old handset will typically end up in a landfill, the resources to have produced it are now lost, and worse, those resources add to toxicity levels of groundwater supplies, food-chain participants, etc. This is in addition to consuming volume in the landfill itself.

I believe economists call this effect a "deadweight loss".

Re:Say it ain't so!! (0, Troll)

jez9999 (618189) | about 7 years ago | (#19816787)

Kevin Martin actually isn't that great of a guy.

In the phrase, "Too much of a good thing", 'much' is functioning as a noun; this is why 'of' is needed to glue together the nouns 'much' and 'thing'.
In almost all other phrases similar to this, 'much' is the only word after the 'too' that functions as a noun; other words are all adjectives. eg. "Too loud a noise", "Too small a quantity", "That great a guy". Adjectives directly describe a noun (eg. 'loud noise', 'small quantity', 'big problem'), and DO NOT NEED the preposition 'of' to glue them with their noun! Incidentally, even 'much' can be used as an adjective, when it is describing an abstract noun: "Too much rain".
Therefore, your phrase,
"That great of a guy"
should have read,
"That great a guy".
The 'of' is totally redundant and incorrect. Please do not ever use it UNLESS you are using the word 'much' with a non-abstract noun and need 'of' to glue them together.

it ain't... sorry. (3, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | about 7 years ago | (#19816143)

I believe he is actually concerned with the effects on other businesses the spectrum lock is having. He sites technological advancement and sales as his concern, not the well being of the people. He believes that there is more of a profit to be made by opening the door, between new competition, new sales, and new taxes. And I agree. As an added bonus, the American people might get to see some new technology and alternative wireless communication devices.

-Rick

Actually, this struck me as pro-business in a way (2, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 7 years ago | (#19816313)

If the auction grants exclusive rights, that means other businesses can't develop the spectrum even further. Sure, the consumers get extra gizmos, but it'll be other businesses that are making those gizmos to sell.

Still, it does suggest a shift away from monopoly business practices and more towards competitive business practices. I did read that Republican money-raising efforts are floundering, so perhaps it's a way to either shake down the AT&Ts of the world, or get money from smaller businesses.

It's a good thing I'm not that cynical.

Re:Say it ain't so!! (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#19816679)

Can you name a single American computer company that owns a significant global market share? What about a software company?

Now fast forward ten years; the desktop era is over, the ubicomp era is starting.

Now backtrack to the present, and look at the companies poised to take control of that market. How many successful mobile phone companies are based in the USA?

It's simple economics; there's an important technology market that is likely to grow enormously in the next few decades, and the USA is well behind the rest of the world. Why? Because US mobile phone networks are less regulated than those in other countries, and so lock down the hardware more. It doesn't make sense to develop a mobile phone in the USA, because the networks won't let you use the most innovative features, and who wants to develop a consumer product they can't use and get their friends to use? Look at the iPhone; it's got a nice UI, but to anyone outside the USA its feature set looks like something from 3-5 years ago (more if you're in Japan).

In summary, the neo-cons want the next Microsoft, IBM, Intel and Dell to be US companies, not Finnish or Japanese (and I don't blame them). The only surprising thing is that someone in power is thinking further forwards than the next election.

which FCC? (0, Troll)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 7 years ago | (#19815893)

What happened to the FCC? This decision would actually benefit the country! The FCC is supposed to be spending all its budget on forcing Christian fundamentalist values on everyone! What went wrong?

Re:which FCC? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816027)

Federal Christian Coalition
(head by a former AT&T lobbying professional, what can possibly go wrong?)

A cynical view (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816161)

Its probably easier for the feds to get their apps running on an unlocked phone... no need to convince Apple (or the courts) that it is a good idea.

The aliens have landed (4, Funny)

Phil_At_NHS (1008933) | about 7 years ago | (#19815929)

For those of you who thought aliens would take over by pretending to be human and infiltrating government, I apologize for calling you nasty names. If the Chairmen of the FCC is doing something consumer friendly, there is no other explanation. Now, I AM hardpressed to figure out who such action forwards the cause of these aliens, unless maybe they too are just sick and tired of crippled phones....

Re:The aliens have landed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19815999)

So that's what the PrimeCo Alien has been up to!

AMEN. (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | about 7 years ago | (#19815975)

This should have been done with fucking cell phones a long time ago.

What we really want to know... (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | about 7 years ago | (#19815977)

how long before an official unlocked iPhone appears?

Re:What we really want to know... (1)

Phroggy (441) | about 7 years ago | (#19816299)

About five years, as soon as their exclusive contract with AT&T expires. Hopefully then you'll be able to buy a $500 iPhone from Apple, and any network will offer you service with no contract (since the phone isn't subsidized).

Meanwhile, other manufacturers will have added support for AT&T's new visual voicemail system, and other providers will have added support for those phones. They'll all include either Opera Mobile or Minimo, to compete with Safari on the iPhone. You'll still be able to get a free phone by signing a 2-year contract, but it will become common for those who have the up-front cash to get the flexibility of being able to change service providers whenever they like. This will force providers to actually compete, knowing that if they screw up, customers can leave. And manufacturers will compete too, trying to make their phones attractive enough to get people to buy their high-end phones directly instead of going with cheap subsidized crap. Basically, everybody wins except evil cell phone providers who want to extract as much money as possible without fear of repercussion.

Re:What we really want to know... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19816365)

Hopefully then you'll be able to buy a $500 iPhone from Apple, and any network will offer you service with no contract (since the phone isn't subsidized).

Bull, the phone wouldn't cost that much. The reason is that now instead of select phones working on one carrier, every phone could work on every carrier... in other words, we'd have a flood of phones to choose from (more than today) and prices would drop in the face of this new competition.

5 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816553)

how long before an official unlocked iPhone appears?

5 long years [engadget.com]

If he were really interested in helping consumers (5, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | about 7 years ago | (#19816035)

he'd come out against spectrum auctions. Is there any single policy that's proven as pernicious lately? One of the most annoying things to come out of Congress has been the forced conversion of the VHF and UHF spectrums to, well, something else, and the retirement of NTSC broadcasts, mainly because Congress is greedy and wants the money such an auction would give them. Never mind that there's no compelling reason to ditch NTSC broadcasts, or that it will cost billions for consumers to convert their TVs to HD. Those auction costs eventually get passed on to the consumers of those products, too, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (4, Interesting)

cfulmer (3166) | about 7 years ago | (#19816141)

What is your alternative choice for deciding who gets the spectrum?

The most compelling reason to ditch NTSC is that the spectrum it occupies is very valuable, in part because it is not as impeded by obstructions as other frequencies. The switch to HDTV is a catalyst that provides an alternative. A portion of the money gained from the auction of the previous UHF/VFH space will be used for vouchers for consumers to buy conversion devices for their TVs. I suspect, though, that these will be mainly unused, as the large majority of TV viewers are on either cable or satellite, neither one of which will be directly affected.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (2, Interesting)

CajunArson (465943) | about 7 years ago | (#19816157)

OK, hold on, I think there is just a pinch of 'hate Bush no matter what' in your post. If none of the auctions were taking place, I could just as easily spin this as the Evil Bush administration staying in league with media giants to retain control over UHF and VHF spectrum that was being wasted (which it is in buckets by the way) and cut off from any and all new innovation. I could further decry the fact that the US was continuing to languish with the old NTSC transmission standard instead of moving into the 21st century with digital & HD standards, and how consumers were being hurt by the stifling entrenched interests that wanted to stop the growth of new technology. I have a question: If Hillary were auctioning off the spectrum would you still hate it, and if the Bush administration canceled the auction would you say it was a good idea?

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | about 7 years ago | (#19816317)

Uhg, do we have to choose between the Republicrat and the Neo-Con? Can't we just get Nader or someone to drop a loaf on the spectrum and call it a day?

In all seriousness though, spectrum auctions cut both ways. Getting rid of NTSC over UHF/VHF will open up tons of new opportunities. But at the same time the cost to each and every station has been millions of dollars. A lot of the smaller/NFP organizations (like PBS stations) have had a hell of a time pulling off the change over, and a number of stations are just closing rather than dealing with the financial risk. Tack on to that the direct cost to the consumer of HD tuners, converters, or new TVs, and the indirect cost through advertising and taxes. Personally, I agree with the auctions to some extent. I do not have the knowledge to make a well qualified statement on the decision, but there are many trade offs between licensed and open frequencies. Just imagine if you had to file with the FCC just to plug your WiFi router in. ;)

And feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but didn't the initial move to retire NTSC start under Clinton's presidency?

-Rick

Hillary vs. Bush (1)

Scareduck (177470) | about 7 years ago | (#19816829)

If Hillary were auctioning off the spectrum would you still hate it, and if the Bush administration canceled the auction would you say it was a good idea?
I didn't think they were a good idea when (Bill) Clinton was in office. I don't think they're a good idea now.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 7 years ago | (#19816257)

Never mind that there's no compelling reason to ditch NTSC broadcasts, or that it will cost billions for consumers to convert their TVs to HD.

Well, in theory the freed up spectrums might result in additional wireless services that consumers will want.
I think it's also fair to say that there is no compelling reason to keep NTSC broadcasts, which is using technology over 50 years old. Consumers do not have to convert their TVs to HD. All they need do is buy a conversion box and Uncle Sam is supposed to subsidize the cost to those who will need them. I've heard talk of $50 vouchers being given, which should about cover it.

I fail to see even one argument as to how keeping the spectrum will benefit anybody. Your post seems to be kind of a luddite thing.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (1)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | about 7 years ago | (#19816315)

Oh god forbid, people may not be able to watch TV! Won't somebody think of the children?!!!

NTSC is very old, wasteful technology. Once freed up, new technology will able to make much more efficient use of the same frequencies. Much like how digital mobiles are more efficient that the small car sized devices we had 15 years ago.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (1)

em.a18 (31142) | about 7 years ago | (#19816373)

There is a reason to ditch NTSC.. it's an incredibly inefficient way of transmitting video. I believe that HDTV can transmit the same image quality in 1/4 or 1/6 of the bandwidth dedicated to over-the-air NTSC video.

And from an economic view.. auctions are very efficient. With all that unused spectrum, would you prefer to have more TV channels, or more (hopefully) interesting wireless services? Let the market decide.

Now it's up to the regulators to figure out how to make the auction fair. I don't know how to do that part.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (1)

Phroggy (441) | about 7 years ago | (#19816465)

There are all kinds of useful things that could be done with the VHF spectrum, that can't be done now because it's being taken up by all those analog TV channels.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#19816471)

Never mind that there's no compelling reason to ditch NTSC broadcasts

There's a very good reason to ditch the NTSC broadcasts-- when all those broadcasts are being broadcast on another spectrum of frequencies, it's a waste of a very useful range of frequencies to continue the duplicate broadcasts. It may be that HD hasn't rolled out as quickly as many people hoped, and therefore it makes sense to delay "ditching" NTSC broadcasts, but that's been going on for years. They keep delaying it (for good reason), but eventually, when most people have upgraded their TVs and/or purchased new tuners, we ought to cease the old broadcasts.

Part of the reason for all this is that we chose to put NTSC broadcasts (IANA expert, but so I've heard) on the frequencies they occupy specifically because they travel well through solid materials and get good penetration into buildings. These are very useful/valuable frequencies, and we should free them up for wireless digital communications if we can. It only makes sense. As to the "auction", I'm not sure whether it's good or bad. I don't know the ins and outs of regulating this stuff. Do we need to give control of the spectrum to specific large companies in order to develop ubiquitous wireless internet? Would it make more sense to make it more of a free-for-all like the 2.4 Ghz range used by WiFi? If so, does the FCC need to do anything in particular to keep people from interfering with each other?

I ask these questions because I really don't know and I'm curious. I'd like to hear from someone who really knows what they're talking about. I really think that if there's one thing the FCC should be working on, it's pushing the agenda of getting high quality, high speed, open, wireless internet coverage throughout the entire country. And when I say "open" I don't necessarily mean "public" or "free" (as in beer), but it should at least be an open standard for wireless data.

Re:If he were really interested in helping consume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816745)

cost billions for consumers to convert their TVs to HD. Those auction costs eventually get passed on to the consumers of those products,

If one opts to not HAVE a new HD TV, how shall the masses obtain their soma?

fcc vs private industry (1)

SolusSD (680489) | about 7 years ago | (#19816063)

I really don't know who stifles innovatino more, the fcc or private industry

But...but... (2, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | about 7 years ago | (#19816073)

He's a Republican...he's Eeeevilllll!

My world is shaken to its core.

they only ACT evil (1)

victorvodka (597971) | about 7 years ago | (#19816343)

I know, republicans aren't evil. They only ACT that way. i know, republicans helped cnn and foxnews by making a war, and they helped those in armament factories by increasing defense spending. they also helped some people with large inheritances avoid paying taxes. But seriously, when was the last time a republican did anything that did any large group of people any long term good?

Re:they only ACT evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816411)

But when has a Democrat done anything but raise taxes to benefit a special interest?

taxes: bring 'em on (1, Offtopic)

victorvodka (597971) | about 7 years ago | (#19816489)

We don't pay enough taxes in this country. Taxes are part of your contract for living in a civilized society. Everyone always bitches about their taxes but then when a hurricane wipes out their house and they have no insurance - waaaaa! You want Uncle Sam to fix your boo-boo. I'd gladly pay more taxes to have a completely socialized medical system in this country and not to have to keep a sterile surgical suite and surgical implements to reattach my own limbs next to my power tools.

Oh, fooey (1)

Scareduck (177470) | about 7 years ago | (#19816869)

Another of the "taxes are part of your contract for living in a civilized society" mavens. So, if we all paid 100% of our wages to the state, would that make us all sufficiently pious for you? What level is "enough"? Government exists to serve the people, not the other way around. The "more taxes" crowd forgets this, forgets the abuses that more money collected by the state engenders: more wars (foreign and domestic — think of the War On [Some] Drugs), more secret programs, more spying on citizens, etc. Enough. E-fargin'-nuff.

Re:taxes: bring 'em on (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#19816983)

"We don't pay enough taxes in this country."

I pay PLENTY of taxes. If approx. 30% of what I make isn't enough (not even factoring in double taxation such as sales tax paid with income taxed money), then they need to cut spending.

Really now...that is ENOUGH!.

"Everyone always bitches about their taxes but then when a hurricane wipes out their house and they have no insurance - waaaaa! You want Uncle Sam to fix your boo-boo."

Nope...I live in NOLA. While I feel bad for the people that lost their homes and had no insurance, I see no reason to bail them out. If they were stupid enough to be living in a well known "danger of flooding" area and didn't have insurance, well, you deserve what you got. There has to be a measure of personal responsibility for your actions here. Maybe you'll learn next time.

"I'd gladly pay more taxes to have a completely socialized medical system in this country..."

I have no problem with the medical system in the country really...except I side with the Dr.'s about how the bean counters and lawyers have really screwed things up and force the Dr's to CYA on everything. My only gripe is, that the insurance companies aren't forced to accept everyone. If you're not on a group plan...it is very difficult to buy insurance. I could afford pretty much any premiums they throw at me...but, have had difficulty in the ONE area that is a risk factor I have...high triglycerides. Other than those...no problems at all. But, it is very difficult to find even minimal, catastrophic insurance for many people. And you have to have at least that before you can open a HSA to save your own medical dollars tax free.

Ok...wandering way off the thread now.....

:-)

But, seriously....if they can't get by with 20%-30% of most people's income, they are seriously misspending money.

Does this really matter? (1)

CodeShark (17400) | about 7 years ago | (#19816099)

I get the gist of the argument but not the specifics -- since the frequency ranges are being auctioned, doesn't that imply a limitation that only the carriers who pay for the spectrum get to play? So how does an "unlocked" spectrum help?


For example, if I have a given phone that can access the various sub-channels in the frequency, how do I take my service from one carrier to another, etc.? given that alot of the services are essentially thin client apps run from data on the carrier's backbone servers.

Translated From Bushese Means: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816107)

We want to intercept all of your communications for the sake of the Homeland [whitehouse.org] .

P.S.: Fuck Bush

Demand and supply (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816115)

"One example:... 'Internationally, Wi-Fi handsets have been available for some time,' Martin noted. 'But they are just beginning to roll out here.'""

Is that because of lock-in, or just because there hasn't been enough demand for them in the states?

Don't get to excited (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 7 years ago | (#19816139)

"Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide ... truly open broadband network - one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers," Martin said in an interview Monday.

What this would mean in practice: "You can use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions," Martin explained."
Unless he makes "in practice" the official FCC rule, I can't imagine that the networks are going to anything other than provide network unlocked phones. Just because a phone is network unlocked doesn't mean it will not have shitty firmware that locks out features.

Most Americans are not willing to pay the full price for a phone. As long as the networks have people hooked on subsidized phones, the phones will be feature locked down.

Re:Don't get to excited (1)

lessermilton (863868) | about 7 years ago | (#19816543)

So why don't they subsidize unlocked (read FOSS) phones? Cause heck! I'd jump to the first carrier that offered me that!

Meh... but who am I kidding? Then there'd be no reason for me to sign up for another two-year contract, because my phone could easily ($50) be upgraded. Oh well!

#irc.trooltalk.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816147)

FORMED HIS OWN brain. It is the you're told. It's it's going, see... The number approximately 90% of business and your own beer the political mess Practical purposes handy, you are free '*BSD Sux0rs'. This everyday...Redefine Niggers everywhere it. Do not share sling, return it to Don't walk around confirming the continues to lose obligated 7_o care FreeBSD used to Java IRC client turned over to yet People playing can least I won't least of which is lesson and of America (GNAA) exemplified by watershed essay, they're gone Came of Jordan Hubbard be 'very poorly achieve any of the to this. For

We need competition in mobile phones and homebrew (2, Interesting)

backslashdot (95548) | about 7 years ago | (#19816173)

Just like how there are hundreds of brands of PC's to choose from (this helps keep the price down, improve selection, and companies innovating) we need to have hundreds of brands of cell phones.

We need to be able to home build cell phones. Personally I'd assemble myself a cell phone with a 3.5" (maybe only slightly higher) touchscreen 800 px wide display, 3G, Live Video Share and GPS. I'd run my own distro of Linux or OpenMoko on it.

if iPhone was truly open (2, Interesting)

victorvodka (597971) | about 7 years ago | (#19816415)

if iPhone was truly open I'd buy it as a PDA - i have no interest in using it as a phone. i like the touch screen interface and wifi - it would replace my laptop. but im not buying something that commits me to thousands of dollars worth of business to AT&T, a known monopolist (who, like the liquid metal terminator in T2, has reconstituted itself from its fragments).

WTF (3, Insightful)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#19816205)

While I'd love for my iPhone to be unlocked, I am wondering what authority does the Constitution give the government to mandate unlocking.

Re:WTF (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | about 7 years ago | (#19816369)

It's in the same part where it authorizes the existence of the FCC.

Re:WTF (1)

paulthomas (685756) | about 7 years ago | (#19816449)

Which is? The commerce clause? I'm actually interested in knowing -- I'm not trying to be an ass.

Re:WTF (3, Interesting)

Zcar (756484) | about 7 years ago | (#19816695)

My (simplified) understanding is that the frequency spectrum is public property and the FCC is tasked with administering that property for the benefit of the public. The money paid is not so much a purchase of spectrum but purchase of a license to use a block of spectrum. The unlocked device restriction is a term of that license. The constitutional mandate probably comes from Congress's Article IV Section 3 powers to "dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States".

Re:WTF (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#19816949)

Fine. Which part of the Constitution allows for an unelected entity such as the FCC to control radio waves?

Re:WTF (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19816423)

Interstate commerce... since, you know, the cell phone companies are all national entities.

Not Far Enough (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | about 7 years ago | (#19816213)

I like this idea quite a bit, I just don't think it's far enough. It shouldn't just be the new 700MHz spectrum. If you buy ANY new space, you should have to comply with this. If you USE any space you should have to comply. No locking cells to the carrier after Dec 31st, 2007. Not 2015, not 2010, THIS YEAR. Since this is just locking and it's not a problem over seas, they have no excuse why this couldn't be done.

I'd also say contracts should be illegal (or at least termination fees) and ditto with subsidizing phones (you want to subsidize? Must be and instant rebate, none of this mail-in stuff). But I don't expect those to happen.

I'll still be surprised if this was passed.

But please, free the cell phones. Won't someone please think of the cell phones?

Locking is not the problem, FCC (2, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | about 7 years ago | (#19816239)

It sounds good -- use the force of the law to regulate businesses to provide unlocked devices "for the consumer's rights." But the idea of locking a device is irrelevant to this discussion, Mssrs. FCC, because it isn't the provision of locking a device that is anti-consumer.

The best situation for any consumer of a given market product is competition -- the ability for newcomers to a given market to try to provide better features at a lower cost and a higher quality. This gives consumers choice. Locking a device is the equivalent of removing a feature from a product, but the idea of locking a device may allow a manufacturer to offer better service because they won't have to pay for the support of third party hardware and software. In the print industry, I get significant breaks on same-day warranty service if I buy my toner and ink from the manufacturer (generally at a fairly competitive price, these are industrial machines).

So what is the anti-consumer situation here? Again, it isn't locking the device. The biggest anti-consumer provision in the communications market is also one that is anti-competition (amazing). It is called the Patent. In a market where almost every product is seemingly identical, we still see each product having patents or patents pending on the devices. Yes, the iPhone seems unique, but it really isn't. Apple just realized that the interface is more important than other features -- and they're proven correct so far in the short run. Yet the market is artificially disturbed because of the force of law (patents, copyrights, trademarks), and the FCC wants to patch the Congressional error by adding more regulation to the market?

Dada21 is not the problem, FCC. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19816319)

"The biggest anti-consumer provision in the communications market is also one that is anti-competition (amazing). It is called the Patent."

*looks and sees who the poster is*

*rolls eyes*

Same song and dance with you dada21. Would it be safe to say you don't have a bit of IP to your name? If I was into conspiracies I'd wonder what's in it for you if your "utopia" came about? Not the one you'd think it will be. [slashdot.org]

Re:Locking is not the problem, FCC (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#19816363)

It's regulation, but it's fixing an ill that is essentially forced on users. At this level - with the barriers to entry in the market (i.e. spectrum costs, to start with) - the consumer has essentially zero leverage in contract negotiations. This simply prevents consumer lock in - generally considered a bad thing. Whine and complain all you want to about the USPTO, but this is neither an attemp to correct their ills, nor some attempt to fix congressional errors.

If you want to provide fewer features, put fewer of them in the device to begin with. If you want to prevent your customers from taking your subsidized handset to another carrier, don's subsidize them.

If nothing else, it will stop the rest of the world from laughing at (this new part) of our Byzantine mobile communication system.

Re:Locking is not the problem, FCC (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#19816921)

If you want to prevent your customers from taking your subsidized handset to another carrier, don's subsidize them.

I might be paranoid, but it seems to me that locking phones to a given carrier should be grounds to investigate the major carriers for anti-trust violations. Maybe I just don't get it, but the major benefit I see to this lock-in is for the other carriers, so I've always assumed that the carriers got together and agreed to lock phones in order to all benefit each other to the detriment of all consumers.

What I mean is, there shouldn't really be any worry about customers taking the subsidized cell phones to other carriers. Think about it: if I run Verizon, why should it really bother me if one of my customers takes their subsidized phone to another carrier? If the customer has fulfilled his contract, then they've already paid off the subsidy. If he hasn't fulfilled his contract, then I've put terms in the contract saying that I can charge him a fee for breaking his contract, thereby recouping the money lost subsidizing the contract. Either way, I've lost nothing. Either way, the customer is free to leave and get phone service from another carrier. However, when the customer switches to the new carrier, that customer will need to pay the new carrier for their new phone, and also enter into a contract in order to subsidize the new phone. By signing on to a multi-year contract, that customer is now unable to switch back to Verizon if they become unhappy with the new carrier's service.

So as the guy running Verizon, I realize that the main result of locking my phones to only work on my network is that, should my customers choose to leave, they will give my competitors more money, and they'll be barred from returning to Verizon service for multiple years. In many ways, it would be a competitive advantage to be the carrier that is selling unlocked phones while your competitors only sell locked phones. The chief reason not to do this would be if there were an agreement among carriers, however tacit, that none of them would do this because then all of them would have to, and then consumers wouldn't need to purchase as many phones.

Oh well, it's probably just one of those situations where game theory could explain that it's in no ones best interest to actually compete. Still, it points out why you sometimes need government regulations specifically regarding monopolies and cartels. Capitalism only works when people compete, but often enough it's not in a company's best interest to actually try to be competitive.

Re:Locking is not the problem, FCC (1)

R2.0 (532027) | about 7 years ago | (#19816395)

But since the FCC has pretty much zero say over patent reform, does that mean they should be precluded from doing anything at all, even if it is a minor relief?

Or is patent reform just your hobbyhorse and you see everything from astride that creaky steed?

Re:Locking is not the problem, FCC (1)

sholden (12227) | about 7 years ago | (#19816433)

Because the FCC has complete control over patents, copyright, and trademarks.

Patents , Copyright, and trademarks are not the .. (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | about 7 years ago | (#19816511)

problem.

The biggest anti-consumer provision in the communications market is also one that is anti-competition (amazing). It is called the Patent.

That is complete nonsense.

Patents and Copyrights allow creators to make a living. If I invest time and money into an invention, I want to profit from it. I don't want someone else taking my ideas and ruining any chance I have of making money and getting a decent return on my investment. Eliminating patents and copyright will greatly reduce or even eliminate the ability to profit from it resulting in innovation halting completely. Unfortunately here on /., everyone focuses on the abusers of the system and not on the folks who created something and added value to society.

Without Trademarks, there would be nothing stopping me from opening up the Disney Pornography store.

Re:Patents , Copyright, and trademarks are not the (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19816555)

Without Trademarks, there would be nothing stopping me from opening up the Disney Pornography store.
Unfortunately, that does nothing to stop people from drawing it.

Re:Patents , Copyright, and trademarks are not the (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#19816965)

Without Trademarks, there would be nothing stopping me from opening up the Disney Pornography store.

I guess trademarks do have some unfortunate consequences.

Re:Locking is not the problem, FCC (1)

db32 (862117) | about 7 years ago | (#19816665)

Just because noone seems to understand this, and people cry about patents all the time. Patents are not bad. The concept is terribly important, the practice however is a bit flawed in implementation.

So...you develop some fancy wizbang gadget, brand new, totally innovative, breaking new barriors. The moment you sell the first one, MegaTechCorp will purchase one, use its highly paid engineers to disassemble it, maybe make a few 'enhancements', bundle it back up, mass market it, and totally screw you out of business. You will have sold 1 at incredible personal cost in R&D and MFG, MegaTechCorp will have bought 1, mass produced them, mass marketed them, and made millions. You on the other hand are left wimpering about how the rich have an unfair advantage because they can just snatch up the little guys inventions and call them their own and push the little guy out of business. Which ironically is what the primary complaint about patents is now...except if they go away the problem gets worse and becomes 100% legal. At least with the undestanding that patents are imporant there is some hope of fixing the patent system to allow fewer abuses.

FCC - Lost Intrest in US a long time ago. (1)

deweycheetham (1124655) | about 7 years ago | (#19816285)

Follow the Market Share, Money, Monopolies, and/or Political Mojo and see what happens in this case. I wonder which is in play this time?

What does this prove? (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | about 7 years ago | (#19816385)

I am so ipressed by his integrity No all he needs to do is puts this idea through congress AND get the president to sign it....

Oh, wait. That's right! This guy will be two years out of office before this is even a bill. He can demand anything he wants now, and so can any other department head becasue they won't be around to put it through congress.

Gosh, I wonder what the FCC head will be doing AFTER he gets booted by the next pres. (or this one). Could it be consulting for some group/company that would benefit from open devices?

Naw, that would just be jaded of me.

We Win! (2, Interesting)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | about 7 years ago | (#19816461)

I had given up on waiting for the day that something the US government did made sense. Looks like somebody does have a clue. Too bad lobbyist, and greed mongers won't ever let this idea see the light of day.

This really is not unexpected (0)

jskline (301574) | about 7 years ago | (#19816587)

The fact is that there hasn't been anything really "invented" in this country for years, probably going back to the 60's or 70's. Part of the problem is that here, everything *must* have a profitability schedule attached to it and it's return on investment must be steep and fast or its killed off. Free-Market idealogical thinking is responsible for this. I thought there was supposed to be a balance with this against a worth to the populous as a whole, but I guess something got lost in the translation somewhere.

Hence this is why a lot of stuff is invented elsewhere and even if something is invented here, it ultimately doesn't come here until much later after these people start realizing whats going on in Europe and other parts of the planet, and decide to bring it here.

I don't care if the iPhone sold for $100, I would not touch it because it's *locked* into AT&T. Sorry but I am for freedom of choice and this doesn't give me that.

Devil's Advocate (2, Insightful)

snilloc (470200) | about 7 years ago | (#19816703)

So, the US market just released the Holy-friggin'-grail Jesus phone, the iPhone, and the problem is lack of innovation?

Sorry, but what allows Apple to bring the iPhone to market is Apple's ability to lock-in with AT&T in order to maximize profits for a 5 year clip. Without lock-in, there wouldn't be an iPhone, or it would be much more expensive (even after you factor out the ATT contract).

Wow (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | about 7 years ago | (#19816719)

All I can say is "WOW!" I've long been an advocate of unlocked interfaces. Actually, if I had my way, every product sold that has any ability to be "connected" to something else would be REQUIRED to fully and completely document any and all interfaces, API's, and/or file formats. We really need to end this current paradigm of creating lock-in and lock-out of end users' own property and data under the guise of "protecting intellectual property," which doesn't actually protect anything other than preventing an aftermarket and forcing updates at the vendor's whim. I'm not asking to open-source the internals of a device or software product, but providing interfacing information isn't too much to ask. The line the law SHOULD draw is at the interface. Inside the device is the vendor's territory, but outside is the customer's. Violation of this requirement should result in an injunction preventing any sale of the device or product until compliance is achieved, with a daily fine equal to the highest sales revenue for the product in question. Note that this will not allow infringements of patents or copyrights of the device, but will end the days of not being able to use some device with some other device. No more lockout of aftermarket printer cartridges, or devices that can't be made to work with Linux.
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