Tech Bytes – Tid Bits in Tech News: When Less is More: FCC Restraint Equals More Choice and Benefits for Consumers

This Tuesday, WorldCom announced that it is filing its first round of applications for fixed wireless broadband services in 60 markets nationwide. This is welcome news for consumers who can expect to receive high-speed fixed wireless Internet access in selected areas by early next year.

Thanks to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) policy of “un-regulation” pertaining to broadband Internet access, consumers will be offered an abundance of choices for high-speed Internet. The policy of “open access” favored by pro-regulation forces contends that cable modems are the only conduit consumers will choose to receive high-speed Internet. Tuesday’s announcement proves that the nation’s leading backbone services provider is willing to bet otherwise.

At issue is not which medium consumers should choose for high-speed Internet, but that they have the choice. Forced access would create a bureaucratic price structure and discourage investment and innovation, much to the detriment of consumers.

WorldCom’s applications are for licenses to two-way fixed radio bandwidths known as Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) and Instructional Television Fixed Services (ITFS). This spectrum had previously been authorized for one-way video programming, but the FCC had hoped to use these bandwidths for broadband Internet service. Because of this, it is likely that WorldCom’s license applications will gain approval from the FCC.

WorldCom’s fixed wireless transmits line-of-sight signals at 2.6 GHz between single transmission points and multiple receiving points (i.e., antennas on subscribers’ homes), and provides download speeds similar to that of cable modems. Market trials are expected to begin as soon as the FCC grants approval.

Fixed wireless broadband service will offer consumers a choice for high-speed Internet access in competitive markets, and areas where few, if any, choices exist. Fixed wireless will create a comparison-shopping model for broadband service that will push prices down. It is also important to note that because it has characteristics different from those of cable modem technology, fixed wireless may be favored by some consumers and disliked by others for reasons other than price.

At issue is not which medium consumers should choose for high-speed Internet, but that they have the choice. Forced access would create a bureaucratic price structure and discourage investment and innovation, much to the detriment of consumers. The FCC should be lauded for its restraint in this matter in the hope that it will practice it more often in the future.

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