The GigaOM Interview: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Mobile, Broadband, iPhone & Innovation

57 thoughts on “The GigaOM Interview: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Mobile, Broadband, iPhone & Innovation”

  1. He didn’t really say a lot, did he?

    Don’t get too excited about bandwidth caps. As more video moves to the Internet, engineering has a choice to make: we can more aggressively manage the priorities of competing services, freaking-out the net neutrality nuts, or we can meter the bandwidth people consume during peak hours, which also freaks them out. Even in Japan, with all that bandwidth, they still have caps and limits.

    There’s no magic bullet, and the FCC can’t instantly determine which policy is better.

  2. Thank you Om for continuing to bring this dialog to the forefront on your blog. Two of the issues mentioned, how to “drive ubiquitous broadband infrastructure” and “why don’t you regulate the cable companies” are really key here.

    Back in the early days, the US established the highest phone penetration in the world with the Universal Service Fund, which subsidized low-income and rural telephony with income collected from profitable markets. It was a hugely successful program.

    Strangely, this program still exists in a crippled form that is still specific to telephony. Yet telephony is now just an “application” running over broadband, much like email or any other web service. To single it out is wrong and out-dated.

    IMHO, the FCC should apply this same methodology to broadband in general. This means that every ISP, in whatever form (DSL, Cable, WiMax, etc) would need to contribute to a broadband USF to help fund deployment in rural and low-income areas. It worked before, why not do it again?

  3. He actually said a lot. The idea of “ubiquitous broadband” is a peek into his idea of wireline, cable, satellite, wireless, etc. broadband infrastructures and service providers. This doesn’t boad well for incumbents because they are generally the transport the service providers use to deliver services.

    “It has a lot of room in it for the FCC to apply the language of the Communications Act as amended by the 1996 Act to ongoing facts and circumstances.” This is the last think bell heads want to see “CHANGE”. As with much of government, we have to accept the transition from 19th century rules that needs a 21st century update.

    1. There are two issues that all of the parties who filed comments on the National Broadband Plan agree on: ubiquitous broadband and expanding the USF to pay for broadband in unserved areas. The carriers are as strongly on-board with these notions as the net neutrality nuts. So the chairman simply echoed that consensus.

      1. Count me as a commenter who is not in favor of expanding the USF. I am in favor of disbanding it and replacing it with vouchers to be distributed directly to the unserved and underserved. They can then offer them to the carrier of their choice as an incentive to provide service.

  4. Great interview. I wanted to address one issue you raised, and perhaps provide you with some data that may be helpful in the future. You said “you don’t quite see new players coming into the market like, say, in other countries where there is healthy competition. How do we make sure that the competition revolution happens here?” I run the Regulatory Affairs office at CTIA. We have spent the last several months putting together educational filings on the state of competition in the wireless industry. In one filing, submitted in May, we used data from Merrill Lynch to compare the U.S. wireless market to 25 other OECD countries (inluding almost all of Europe, Japan, South Korea, etc.). That data shows that the U.S. is the least concentrated of all of the countries. Of the 26 countries, only the US, the UK and Canada have more than 4 carriers total, and the UK and Canada only have 5. The U.S. also has the lowest price per minute, according to Merrill, of all 26 countries. The US also has the highest minutes of use of all 26 countries (perhaps not surprising since we have the lowest price per minute). What is surprising is that the next closest country, Canada, has about half the minutes of use of the U.S., and the U.S. has more than four times the minutes of use of the European average. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about some of these facts.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Off course you are the mouth piece of the Wireless carriers and hence you have an obligation to broaden their agenda. Now coming to facts:

      In many countries a phone call is not double counted – two sides of the conversation. This fact seems to be conveniently ignored.

      Carriers provide free minutes during off-peak hours (nights and weekends) and that is the reason for a greater usage of minutes and not because of low prices.

      As far as the post-paid options are concerned, all the four major operators have pretty much similar prices – I am not saying that collude but because of lack of competitiveness they can get away with similar plans.

      All the major carriers simultaneously raised the SMS prices not based on any cost increases but purely opportunistic.

      So, instead of providing misleading and inaccurate information, please lead the industry in such a way that they provide innovative solutions.

      1. The Chairman referenced a desire to have discussions based on facts, so I thought it made sense to give some of the facts. These are not mine, I didn’t collect them. If you read the report from Merrill, they specifically do recognize the difference between the provision of service in the U.S. and around the world, and they take that into consideration when they present their data, they do not “double-count,” it is not “conveniently ignored.” As for the increase in minutes of use due to free nights and weekends, I would agree that raises minutes of use. Why would that be a bad thing? It certianly impacts price per minute of use, because a portion of your minutes are free. I also don’t think I have ever heard anyone accusing the industry of having the same prices — in fact, the argument in Washingotn often is that the carriers have so many pricing plans that it is impossible ot compare: pre-paid, post-paid, buckets, pay-as-you-go, plans with data, plans with a certain number of texts, and more. I don’t mind having an honest debate, but let’s start with the facts. I am very encouraged that Chairman Genachowski suggested that is how he will lead the FCC.

        1. Zing…. point taken. Though I see some entrepreneurial types in the mix which is different from the past for sure. I am not disagreeing with you, though the mix of people does look pretty decent. But yes NO engineers

          1. Om, after the last eight years with Martin, it is entirely appropriate that you asked the questions you asked. We can’t control what these guys do–they must respond to many different and powerful influencers–all we can do is make them respond to the issues and listen for nuances in their answers that suggust new ideas and new approaches.

  5. Thanks for the great interview and for getting someone from Administration on the record talking about hiring good, smart, innovative and entrepreneurial people to work in the Federal government. Now if the Federal government can start hiring the right contractors for things like Recovery.gov (see http://is.gd/22kfN for more on that).

  6. Yea he talks about hiring engineers but they have’nt hired one that those of us who live in DC can find out about.

    Though they have good RF engineers they have’nt have had a IP clueful person as a senior adviser since Dave Farber and Scott Marcus. John Pena the Chief Technologist seems to be isolated though he has a first rate background. Unfortunately he was one of the Harkonnen appointed under Martin who are still presumably under some suspicion.

    The had a solicitation 4 months or so ago to reconstitute the Technical Advisory Council to the Commission but no action or appointments. Om dont get sucked in by the rhetoric.

    If Julius wants to hire some IP clueful folks around the DC area let me know.

    The Apple letter is a good baby step but on balance he has a long long way to go. The Portals is still about 1500 lawyers to 15 engineers.

  7. Was the above an interview, or was it lobbying? Given the loaded and leading questions, it certainly seems to have been the latter. You lobbied Julius Genachowski to ban bandwidth caps (never mind that bandwidth costs money!) and impose stifling “network neutrality” regulations that would raise prices and harm consumer choice.

      1. “Blogotism?” Sounds like some sort of disease with truly grotesque symptoms. 😉 In any event, maybe the blatant lobbying was the reason the Chairman cut the interview short.

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