We’re just starting to scratch the surface of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, but from our limited-view vantage points we’ve already identified a few flash points that will no doubt be the center of much discussion at next week’s big wireless trade show in Las Vegas — including a call for freeing up 300 MHz of wireless spectrum by 2015, with 120 MHz coming from over-the-air broadcasters; and a huge move toward gathering and exposing more data about spectrum license holdings and actual wireless-service metrics, which with any hope will put a welcome end to stupid Map Wars TV ads that mess up our sports viewing.
On the spectrum front — hey we told you this stuff was important! — the battle for licensed airwaves is likely to make any past wrangling over tedious topics like net neutrality look like a preschool playground when you forsee a lobbying smackdown between the big telcos (who want more spectrum) and the broadcasters (who will fight to not give their airwaves up). Attention recent law school graduates! Best to bone up on spectral-rights history, because your billable hours will soon be needed.
More importantly for the rest of us is the plan’s welcome focus on a topic we’ve long been sore about, the fudging and obfuscating that is the norm when it comes to wireless service plans. Our quick summation of the FCC’s well-reasoned quest to standardize, collect and expose wireless service parameters: When you buy a gallon of gas, you are somewhat assured you are getting the octanes you paid for thanks to government regulations and standards on weights, measurement and quality of fuels. Consumers can choose their provider based on standardized data and pricing, market forces at their best.
In the current iteration of wireless services, we are at the stage of Put a Tiger in your tank. Cloudy descriptions of “peak” service levels and confusing data/minutes/messaging plans purposely make it almost impossible for consumers to compare services or providers. Under the Plan, the FCC would change that by establishing “technical broadband measurement standards” and by publishing actual broadband delivery data — maybe even a label (see below), like the ones that tell us how many calories are in that “healthy” toaster pastry — make it so, make it so!
We also like the bit in Chapter 5 of the report where the FCC calls for the establishment of an online spectrum license search tool (unauthorized PDF grab below) that would make our lives, and the lives of telecom researchers everywhere easier by actually letting the public know who is in control of those most precious of national assets, our electromagnetic airwaves. For this bit alone, hell yes we like the plan. As Eric Schmidt says, Onward!
(image of a proposed FCC “label” for accurate broadband service data. Slap that on yer iPhone!)
(bad fuzzy image of the proposed online spectrum license search tool)