In the Matter of ) ) Allocation of Spectrum in the 5 GHz Band ) RM-8653 To Establish a Wireless Component of the ) National Information Infrastructure ) In the Matter of ) ) Petition for Rulemaking to Allocate ) RM-8648 the 5.1 - 5.35 GHz Band and Adopt ) Service Rules for a Shared Unlicensed ) Personal Radio Network )
I have no financial interest in Apple Computer; I do not even use their equipment. Nevertheless, I find the vision embodied in Apple's NII Band Petition to be vastly superior to that of the WINForum Petition, when the overall benefits to society are considered.
The WINForum Petition is another in an endless series of proposals based on private, for-profit concerns. Any benefits to the public good that might accrue from granting the WINForum Petition would be in the nature of "trickle-down" benefits. As such, it is highly unlikely the benefits would be distributed equitably; instead, the bifurcation of our society into the Info-rich and the Info-poor would be exacerbated thereby.
The contrast between Apple's NII Band Petition and the WINForum Petition is striking. In an era when previous FCC licenses have become sinecures, and new segments of spectrum are auctioned off to the highest bidders for exclusive licensing, it is imperative that some portions of the spectrum be reserved for public uses, rather than subordinating all our diverse and fundamentally incommensurable values to monetary considerations.
I find the Comments filed 10 July 1995 by AT&T to be disingenuous. In particular, the FCC should be far less concerned that its actions might "devalue" certain private goods (existing PCS licenses), and far more concerned that its pattern of actions to date has *already* devalued vitally important public goods. With all due respect, the FCC has, perhaps unavoidably, been a party to the internalization of benefits, and the externalization of costs onto society at large. The FCC now has an opportunity to mitigate those detrimental externalities by issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking in support of the NII Band.
By reducing the cost of a high-bandwidth "last mile" connection to a NII, the intermediate-distance NII Band would directly benefit schools, libraries, small businesses, rural communities, Native Americans, and individual citizens. By ensuring *bi-directional* access, many more people would be empowered to act as information *producers*, not merely passive consumers. The benefits -- diversity of content, freedom of choice, and genuine economic competition (vs. oligopolistic joint ventures and strategic alliances) -- would be immense.
To serve the public interest, it is incumbent on the FCC to promote such a genuinely-Free Speech zone, a *public* space for discourse unconstrained by one's ability to purchase or lease spectrum.
An objection could be raised that such a scheme inevitably would lead to a "Tragedy of the Information Commons". On the contrary, hardware-imposed rules (e.g. spread spectrum techniques) could assure *equitable* sharing of the frequencies, thereby obviating that common (albeit misplaced) criticism. In fact, evidence to date tends to implicate privately "owned" sinecures (i.e., broadcast licenses) as zones of common tragedy, in which an informed citizenry and the free flow of information have been sacrificed to the tyranny of profit maximization. Traditional profit-oriented mass media gatekeepers have performed poorly in promoting a healthy and free flow of information. The FCC must encourage new paradigms of communication for the public good.
I fully support the following statements in Apple's original petition:
"The rules governing the NII Band must assure that all devices retain an equitable right to access and share the spectrum resource. In particular, they must prohibit any ... requirement (or exceptional priority) for centralized 'gatekeepers.'
... ... users must be free ... to communicate without obtaining the approval of, or deferring to, any type of hegemonic controller."
Such minimal rules governing the NII Band could help reduce the widening gaps between our nation's Info-haves and Info-have-nots.
Finally, the FCC should consider the NII Band in the light of the values that motivated the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine. Fairness and communications *equity* are values that implicitly underpin our First Amendment rights. Yet the objections stemming from conventional implementation of the Fairness Doctrine are well known -- e.g., to require a Right of Reply in the print media is seen as a government infringement on the freedom of those who own a particular press, and to require Equal Time on a broadcast channel becomes problematic because rarely are there only two sides to a controversy.
The NII Band has the potential for providing the benefits of the Fairness Doctrine without incurring its liabilities. If the NII Band's implicit requirement for equitable and bi-directional communications is honored, it will promote affirmative Equal Rights of communication access, regardless of race, gender, or monetary resources.
The FCC should recognize that the NII Band offers the best opportunity in years to promote a genuine and bi-directional free marketplace of ideas, a forum that is desperately needed to improve the degraded and impoverished discourse that now afflicts American society.
For various reasons -- including, but not limited to -- those stated above, I support the petition for rulemaking filed by Apple Computer, Inc., and oppose the petition filed by the Wireless Information Networks Forum.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank the FCC for accepting comments
filed via email.
Richard H. Crawford Computer Science Dept., Univ. of Calif, Davis. 2804 Ganges Ave. Davis, CA 95616 24 July, 1995