FCC Tees up Wireless, Broadband Items

Within the next month, the Federal Communications Commission is slated to release a report outlining recommendations on wireless regulation.

Within the next month, the Federal Communications Commission is slated to release a report outlining recommendations on wireless regulation drafted by the commissions spectrum policy task force, according to Bryan Tramont, senior legal adviser to FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

The report will be issued for public comment, Tramont told a group of telecommunications professionals Monday at the Yankee Groups Telecom Industry Forum in Washington. Spectrum allocation and wireless carrier licensing issues are top priorities for the commission at this time, he said.

The wireless industry lobbies continuously for new spectrum, but the effort is steadily countered by the demands of the governments wireless users, particularly the Department of Defense, which is eager to maintain the spectrum it holds. The tug of war also plays out on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are concerned that the United States is lagging behind Europe in wireless service deployment, Kevin Kayes, staff director of the Senate commerce committee, said at the forum.

Many in Congress were interested in introducing spectrum legislation during the past year, but the initiative continuously was detracted by the high-profile battle between incumbent telephone carriers and their rivals over access to the local network, Kayes said. In the next session of Congress, the industry should try to move beyond that age-old debate, he urged.

Many lawmakers from rural states were frustrated this year also by Congress inability to advance new methods of promoting broadband deployment beyond the urban centers, according to Kayes. "The 'farm team is increasingly frustrated because theyre left out of this debate," he said, adding that it is a constant source of anxiety on the commerce committee.

An aide to the committees chairman, Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., Kayes speaks for the majority viewpoint in the closely divided Senate. He said that the country should give more serious consideration to subsidizing widespread broadband deployment, but the idea was countered by the Bush administrations representative on the panel, Michael Gallagher, who is deputy assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Gallagher noted that the country has higher funding priorities right now, including the war on terrorism.

Presenting the keynote speech at the forum Monday afternoon, FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy said that the agency plans to act on broadband regulations in December or January.

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