By Kim Hart - 10/22/09 01:15 PM EDT
Net neutrality is
really about a type of competition the FCC is trying to grapple with,
said Levin, who is leading the effort to develop a National Broadband
Plan that is due to Congress in February.
competition between service providers, like Comcast and Verizon, but
net neutrality is more about a very different type of competition —
competition within the ecosystem,” he said during a panel I moderated
with him at the AlwaysOn conference earlier this week. “Take the
iPhone, which caused AT&T’s data use to go up 5,000 percent. Is
AT&T a competitor to Apple or a partner? If you study the economics
of it, it’s a little bit of both, and that’s what you see with Google
Voice as well.”
“There’s nothing that
will cause prices to go up and quality to suffer more than the lack of
spectrum,” Levin said. “It’s difficult to get policymakers to focus on
a problem that doesn’t exist yet, but I feel confident that if we want
to be a leader in mobile broadband, we have to face the difficult
decisions of how to get more spectrum.”
therefore be worried that more airwaves could be taken from them,
similar to what happened when Congress mandated the digital television
"Yes, they should be worried, and everyone else should be worried,” he said.
John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and
Transportation subcommittee that handles communications and Internet
issues, has sponsored a bill to take a detailed inventory of all
government spectrum holdings to be sure all airwaves are being used
efficiently. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House Energy
and Commerce panel that covers technology, has also listed spectrum
inventory as a priority.
But government agencies are likely
to fight to keep their spectrum holdings. Just last week, Department of
Defense deputy assistant secretary Ron Jost said the department has its
own growing spectrum requirements, driven by the need for more and more
bandwidth to, for example, transfer video and other data collected by
unmanned aerial vehicles and other data-gathering equipment used in the
Bruce Mehlman, chairman of the Internet Innovation
Alliance, a coalition of communications companies such as AT&T and
Nortel, said the hunger for more spectrum may never be sated.
“There’s no provider of wireless broadband that has enough spectrum today for the wireless broadband of tomorrow,” he said.