Courtesy of James Duncan Davidson, here’s a snap from the Spectrum 2.0 panel at eComm09.
The general discussion was about the lessons learned from light licensing of wireless spectrum in the US, on the success of Wi-Fi and the failure of UWB, and what we can realistically hope to gain from the White Spaces licensing regime. As a person with a foot in both camps – technical and regulatory – it was an interesting exercise in the contrast in the ways that engineers and policy people deal with these issues. In general, hard-core RF engineer Peter Ecclesine and I were the most pessimistic about White Space futures, while the policy folks still see the FCC’s Report and Order as a victory.
In lobbying, you frequently run into circumstances where the bill you’re trying to pass becomes so heavily encumbered with amendments that it’s not worth passing. Rather than get your policy vehicle adopted in a crippled form, it’s better in such circumstances to take it off the table and work with the decision-makers to revive it in a future session without the shackles. While this is a judgment call – sometimes you go ahead and take the victory hoping to fix it later – it’s dangerous to pass crippled bills in a tit-for-tat system because you’re conceding a win in the next round to the other side.
I suggested that the FCC’s order was so badly flawed that the best thing for White Space Liberation would be to have the court void the order and the FCC to start over. This message wasn’t well-received by Rick Whitt, but I had the feeling Peter is on board with it.
The problem with the White Spaces is that the FCC couldn’t make up its mind whether these bands are best used for home networking or for a Third (or is it fourth or fifth?) pipe. The power limits (40 milliwatts to 1 watt) doom it to home networking use only, which simply leads to more fragmentation in the home net market and no additional WAN pipes. That’s not the outcome the champions of open networks wanted, but it’s what they got.
eComm, incidentally, is a terrific conference. The focus is very much on the applications people are developing for mobile phones, and it’s essential for people like me who build networks to see what people want to do with them, especially the things they can’t do very well today. Lee Dryburgh did a fantastic job of organization and selecting speakers, and is to be congratulated for putting on such a stellar meeting of the minds.