Businesses need mobile broadband ASAP

Broadband is the life-blood of businesses in the 21st century. Gone are the days of dial-up internet access (thank goodness). I can still hear the plaintiff cries of the modem searching, sometimes in vain, for a connection, any connection, to the internet.

Now that businesses are becoming more mobile, this life-blood needs to be available on wireless networks. To encourage wireless carriers to expand their mobile broadband coverage, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is shifting spectrum in the 600 MHz band designated for TV broadcast use to mobile broadband use.

In May, the FCC issued rules for its 600 MHz band incentive auction, which is expected to be held in mid-2015.

However, not everyone is happy with the rules; the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), for example. The NAB filed a lawsuit this week against the auction rules, arguing that they would shrink the broadcasters' footprint and force them to spend as much as $500 million to shift to new spectrum.

"The net effect of all of these changes (and others) is that broadcasters are effectively left with an auction that benefits everyone else while harming only them," writes Rick Kaplan, executive vice president for strategic planning at NAB.

Not surprisingly, the wireless industry does not agree. "We continue to believe that the incentive auction will be a win for broadcasters, wireless companies and consumers, and that the FCC's order strikes the right balance to ensure that consumers emerge as winners," writes Scott Bergmann, vice president for regulatory policy at CTIA.

"The wireless industry needs more spectrum as soon as possible to be able to meet mobile broadband demand. To help meet that need, we will continue to work with the FCC, NAB and other affected stakeholders to ensure that the Commission is ready to hold the auction on schedule in mid-2015," Bergmann concludes.

I share Bergmann's desire that the incentive auction is held on schedule. I believe NAB jumped the gun in filing a lawsuit and should have worked within the FCC's comment process to resolve their issues.

Luckily, it seems that the NAB also wants to resolve the dispute quickly, as it has filed for expedited review of its petition to the court. "Our aim is to resolve our core challenges as quickly as possible, so the FCC can immediately return to its auction preparations. We believe the court can help us swiftly address our discrete issues," Kaplan notes.

More mobile broadband is badly needed for U.S. companies as well as consumers. I hope that the interest of both sides to settle the dispute quickly leads to timely resolution so the auction can take place on schedule. - Fred