Wheeler: Net neutrality will add pressure on airwaves

Wireless industry veteran Tom Wheeler said in his column on TMCNet.com said net neutrality regulations being considered by the FCC will have a direct impact on another of the agency's top priorities: finding more wireless spectrum.

"If the idea of net neutrality is to assure networks are open to all comers, then those entrants will further increase the pressure on the existing airwaves and the need for more spectrum," he wrote. "Smartphone apps alone average 30 times the throughput demand of a feature phone. With smartphones projected to soon constitute half of all phones sold and with a “ya’ all come” policy of open access, it doesn’t require a math major to divine the spectrum consequences."

Wheeler, who has led the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the wireless industry's association (CTIA), is now managing director at Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm. He was also a science and technology advisor to the Obama transition team last year.

While the biggest holders of spectrum--the Department of Defense and television broadcasters--have adamantly fought the idea of giving up those precious airwaves, Wheeler said there could be a silver lining for all players.

"Rules that recognize the unique characteristics of a spectrum-based service and allow for reasonable network management would seem to be more important than the philosophical debate over whether there should be rules at all," he wrote. "Similarly, a rule that allows for variable pricing is an opportunity for wireless carriers to change the revenue paradigm at a time when revenue per megabyte is in a freefall."

"....There is a spectrum crisis looming. The battle lines have been drawn by those who don’t want their airwaves to be a part of the solution. At the same time a presidential campaign promise is poised to add even more demand to already stressed wireless capacity. As the Obama administration sits astride both issues the relationship between the two just might provide a win-win opportunity for the administration, wireless carriers, and the U.S. public."