Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sen. Kerry: Open the Airwaves for a Better Internet

Originally published at Huffington Post

Sen. John Kerry joined the broad public movement for a better wireless Internet today when he urged the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that our airwaves be used to make the Internet "more competitive, affordable and widespread."

Sen. Kerry

Sen. Kerry: Don't Let Them Hoard the Airwaves

Last week, the FCC was flooded with more than a quarter-million letters from people who urged the agency to use soon-to-be-available public airwaves to connect more Americans to an open, neutral and accessible Internet.

In a June 12 letter delivered to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Kerry wrote: "Competition [in America] has been insufficient to drive the innovation that brings faster speeds, next generation applications and a richer, diverse and multifaceted Internet."

Our Chance to Catch the World

In the letter, Senator Kerry cited recent reports showing the United States has fallen behind much of the world in broadband penetration.

"Nearly 60% of the country does not subscribe to broadband service -- in large measure because it is either unavailable or unaffordable," Kerry wrote. "The 700 MHz auction could put this country one step closer to achieving ubiquitous Internet access throughout America."

Cheaper and Faster

Cheaper and Faster: An ad in Spain touting 20 megabits per second at 6 Euros ($8.02) a month

The failure of broadband services in the United States is due to a marketplace failure -- where phone and cable companies provide access to more than 96% of residential high-speed Internet users.

"For years, we have heard that a third technology would emerge to compete head-to-head with DSL and cable modem," Kerry wrote. "It has not yet materialized, and today Americans pay as much as 10 times more than broadband consumers in Asia and Europe. Worse still, competition has been insufficient to drive the innovation that brings faster speeds, next generation application and a richer, diverse and multifaceted Internet."

An Open and Neutral Alternative

As the FCC considers rules to govern the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, SavetheInternet.com members have called upon the agency to set aside at least half of the available spectrum for open and nondiscriminatory Internet access.

This will guarantee new wireless innovators have the opportunity to enter the market in head-to-head competition with the big phone and cable companies.

Used correctly, these public airwaves could beam high-speed Internet signals to every park bench, schoolroom, workplace and home in America. Incumbent phone and cable companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to lock in their market dominance by hoarding spectrum and stifling cheaper alternatives to their networks.

The FCC: Choosing Between Telcos and the Public Interest

The FCC can either decide to open these airwaves to new competitors and innovation or let them be squandered by the same companies that now monopolize access.

The agency must create conditions that will foster a cheaper, more widespread alternative, Kerry wrote to Martin. "We cannot allow this spectrum to be hoarded by large companies who don't intend to use it, which stifles innovation and the growth of competitive networks."

"Dramatically expanding wireless broadband may not be the silver bullet that solves all of our broadband challenges," he added. "But it will certainly be a big step in the right direction."

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