updated 04:30 pm EDT, Thu October 4, 2007
FCC Holds on 700MHz Rules
FCC chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday backed away from what many believed was an attempt to soften the rules for the upcoming 700MHz wireless auction, according to claims from sources connected to the organization. Although the regulatory chief was feared to be relaxing open access conditions to appease Verizon after the latter's executives lobbied Martin's office in mid-September, Democrat-affiliated FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps are said to have ensured that the rules remained as-is and would ensure that any company licensing one of the wireless bands would have to allow any compatible device and any software to run on its service.
Martin's apparent turn may also have been a result of being caught out by misleading statements, according to the report. While the FCC head claimed to have met Verizon to clarify the rules only as understood by the anti-restriction advocacy group Media Access Project, the latter contradicted the statement and said that it had not petitioned the FCC for help, leaving Martin's motives in doubt.
"We did not ask for any kind of clarification," said MAP's senior VP Harold Feld, who along with other groups asked for a disclosure of what took place in Verizon's lobbying efforts last month.
These groups have joined Google in warning against even a partial relaxation of the rules, as they believe incumbent cellphone carriers like Verizon would try to abuse exceptions to maintain their exclusive business models. Allowing these corporations to behave this way would constitute creating "safe harbors" where the rules no longer apply, the advocates said.
Verizon was handed another setback today when a court denied the company's emergency motion to fast-track a lawsuit against the FCC, which would have forced changes in the rules. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals said that other complaints were likely to come and that it would be more practical to deal with them as a whole. The denial may push back a ruling in Verizon's suit until the January 2008 auction period or sometime afterwards.