FCC, Exclusivity, and Broadband

The acting chairman of the FCC, Michael J. Copps, recently addressed a crowd at Pike & Fischer’s Broadband Policy Summit V, and what he discussed is pretty interesting.  For one thing, what PC Magazine gleaned from the talk is that the FCC is investigating whether cell phone exclusivity deals, such as the one AT&T has with the iPhone and Verizon has with the Blackberry Storm, harm consumers.

This is the extent of Mr. Copps statements on that subject:

The second “other telecom issue” I want to touch upon, and which is much in the news recently, is exclusive arrangements between wireless carriers and handset manufacturers. In the fast-changing wireless handset market, too, we must ensure that consumers are able to reap the benefits that a robust and innovative competitive marketplace can bestow. I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, and I agree that we should open a proceeding to closely examine wireless handset exclusivity arrangements that have reportedly become more revalent (sic) in recent years, and I have instructed the Bureau to begin crafting such an item. The Commission as the expert agency should determine whether some of these arrangements adversely restrict consumer choice or harm the development of innovative devices, and it should take appropriate action if it finds harm.

(Source (PDF))

As that snippet accounted for only one paragraph in a seven page speech, what else did he touch on?  Well, for one, he wants to increase broadband access across the country.  “Are we really responding to national need when what passes for broadband in too many areas—I’d say most—puts our citizens and entrepreneurs at serious disadvantage compared to their competitors in London, Paris, Tokyo or Seoul who enjoy broadband speeds at multiples of what is available here and at half the cost?”  Good point, as Gizmodo recently noted that the USA is number 20 on the list of broadband penetration.  And as you can see if you go play with speedtest.net, South Korea has some seriously fast pipes, pushing data through at roughly 20 Mbps.

Okay, so we’re laggards, but we knew that already.  What else did Mr. Copps talk about?  Well, he reiterated that the deadline on the Notice of Inquiry is July 7, 2009.  The FCC has received 500 comments, totalling 8,000 pages.

He also said that citizens need to be priority numero uno with regards to all the changes that are planned, but I’ll believe that when I see it.  The words are nice, such as “consumer-oriented” and “consumer-responsive,” but unless the telecoms are really reined in, it really will just be business as usual.

So, somewhat interesting things percolating at the FCC, and we’ll just have to see what comes out of it.