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The Great Airwaves… Giveaway?

FCC Airwaves Giveaway

In the early 90s, we fought hard against the advent of high bid auction of commercial airwaves. (See USIMTA/USIPCA Lobbying History & Airwaves Auction Winner) We argued at the FCC and before Congress repeatedly, until we were hoarse and blue in the face, that auctions of communications spectrum, like cellular phone and wireless broadband frequencies would stiffle competition and freeze out the several thousand small independent “wildcatters,” whom we represented … and who we were, as well.

But we always assumed that once an auction mechanism replaced the lotteries of construction permits (ie, FCC licenses) that the airwaves would in fact be sold to the big players.

But alas, since 1993 when spectrum auctions were mandated by Congress, the US Govt. has quietly given away well over a half trillion dollars in spectrum (90% of all licensing, in fact!) that was supposed to be auctioned to the highest bidder. A 2007 study demonstrates that the lotteries that were occuring prior to 1993 were much more honest and transparent.   Well duuhh.

“The third rail of spectrum policy is the rotten, special interest politics that has driven lawmakers to give away the public’s airwaves to private interests without public compensation. In the vast stream of government reports seeking to reform spectrum policy since 1993, one looks in vain for more than a token acknowledgement, let alone a serious and sustained discussion, of this giveaway.”

The Art of Spectrum Lobbying

America’s $480 Billion Spectrum Giveaway:

How it Happened, and How to Prevent it from Recurring

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Dawn of the Wireless Phone 1901

William Edward Ayrton

The dream of anywhere anytime wireless telephony started over a century ago, as evidenced by newspapers and magazines of a bygone era.

Susan J. Douglas has a fascinating essay about early wireless telegraphy in the book Imagining Tomorrow: History, Technology and the American Future, which was edited by Paleo-Future Legend Joe Corn.

Douglas excerpts a prediction by Professor William Edward Ayrton that appeared in a 1901 magazine calledThe Century. In it, Ayrton said that wireless telegraphy would soon allow people to talk over long distances in a highly targeted manner. The phrasing of the piece is remarkably relevant to the mobile phone as Ayrton describes a person’s ability to “call to a friend he knew not where.”

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USIMTA/USIPCA – started 1990

catwp.USIMTA1Lynnea was the founder of two small business-based wireless trade associations – USIMTA and USIPCA – and has lobbied on Capitol Hill and at the FCC where she has spoken out strongly against the cable TV monopoly, illegal spectrum warehousing and ill-conceived congressional schemes to auction our nation’s precious airwaves to the highest bidder. Lynnea is a founder and former CEO of a Washington DC telecommunications consulting and management company that had holdings in several operating and near operating wireless communications systems and companies.

View Lynnea’s Lobbying History

USIMTA Newsletter Spring 1992 Washington DC

USIMTA Newsletter Fall 1992 Washington DC  

USIMTA Newsletter Spring 1993 Washington DC 

USIMTA Newsletter Fall 1993 Washington DC

 

World’s Biggest Auction Winner

In 1995 Lynnea Bylund became the first female in the world to be awarded a Broadband PCS operating permit – she was one of only 17 winners, along with Sprint, AT&T, Pacific Bell, etc., in the biggest cash auction in world history raising a whopping $8 billion – her company was awarded licenses to operate wireless systems in Hawaii and American Samoa – South Seas Satellite Communications Corporation and Proteus, Inc.

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