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Wireless Networking Hardware

FCC Ends 700 MHz Auction 118

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they-aren't-making-any-more dept.
Apu writes "Having received bids totaling $19.5 billion over 260 rounds of bidding, the FCC has announced the closing of Auction 73. The Chairman's statement notes that the auction has "raised more money than any [FCC] auction has ever raised" besting the 2006 Advanced Wireless Service-1 auction that raised $13.9 billion and topping the $10.6 billion Congress estimated it would receive for the 700 MHz spectrum. The New York Times reports that "the last bid in the auction was $91,000 for frequencies around Vieques, Puerto Rico." According to the FCC, "eight unsold licenses [...] remain held by the FCC and will again be made available [...] in a future auction." This includes the "D block" which was to be shared by commercial and public safety users and only received a single $472 million bid, below the $1.3 billion reserve price. However, as previously reported, the open access provisions will apply to one-third of the auctioned spectrum as the minimum $4.6 billion bid for the "C" block was received. The names of the winning bidders have not yet been made public."
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FCC Ends 700 MHz Auction

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  • From the NYT story:

    The government has yet to release the names of the winning bidders, but it may do so in the next few weeks.

    "may" do so? Did the New York Times misspell "must"? Or is it that there is a lack of clarity in the FCC's administrative law as to how long it can go before it makes public the detailed results of the auction?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is that in 2008 dollars? You people realize that every time some revenue or stock price goes up in the US, while the dollar drops at the same time, the businesses are really just treading water while the people pay for the country's debt with the value reduction of their assets?
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:09AM (#22794348) Journal
    ...to see how many of the bid winners manage not to default on their bids and actually deliver a working product.

    And regarding the C-Block (?) for shared public/private usage, I am not surprised. As competitive as the telecomms are in wanting to keep their networks just to themselves, who would want to spend billions developing a nationwide network that would have to give free access to public service? Sure, it would be a boon to firefighters and police, but the telecomms don't seem to worry about good or bad PR.
    • by Apu (325126)

      The shared public/private access would not have been free access. Public safety would have paid for access, though the first "chunk" of access would be at below-commercial rates since public safety gave up some of its spectrum for this network to be built.

      "The FCC paired the upper band D block (a single 10 MHz nationwide license) with 10MHz of public safety spectrum located next to the D block, and conditioned the D block license on an obligation to negotiate with public safety representatives towards the

  • Give each state government the ability to divide up this block among at least two wireless Internet providers. The catch is that they must be able to mimick with wireless internet service, at a minimum the service coverage, in that state, of the cell phone network.

    Doing that would automatically add two major competitors to the broadband market for most states, and it would make this band of spectrum more useful to the public.

    But then again, the FCC was not created to serve the public, now was it? It was des
    • Re:A better solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:16AM (#22794398) Journal
      This plan would be unprofitable in most of the states, the ones with the least populations. With those states (ie, the Dakotas), there aren't enough people to justify the cost. With a nationwide network, that cost is absorbed by the profits in the 10 major population states.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox (846076)
        With those states (ie, the Dakotas), there aren't enough people to justify the cost. With a nationwide network, that cost is absorbed by the profits in the 10 major population states.

        What incentive would a nationwide private owner of a spectrum have to provide service to the Dakotan's when they can focus on the East and West Coasts? This is what happens to many rural communities when you have major companies like Verizon or Comcast with land line service so the same thing would most likley apply to wireless
        • by swb (14022)
          North Dakota has pretty good internet right now. My mother-in-law lives in Devil's Lake and I think she has a choice of cable or DSL. I'm pretty sure I've heard that the relatives in Minto have at least one option, too.

          May not do you any good if you're farming 20 miles out of town, but that's a tough last mile for anyone.

          NDTC even offers fiber to the premises in Devils Lake.
        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          [...] major companies like Verizon or Comcast with land line service [...]

          For a split second (and also perhaps because I am a customer of both of them), I read that as "land mine service", and wondered, "oh great, what's gonna blow up next?"

      • Actually, the Dakotas have major holes in all of the nationwide networks; it just isn't worth it.
    • by R2.0 (532027)
      Uh, yeah - state regulation of communication assets has worked SO WELL in the past. Like giving us local monopolies on cable. And refusing/extorting permits for sell towers (until the Feds stopped that).
  • Misspelling (Score:1, Interesting)

    by EXTER (1223922)
    The summary misspelled "Puerto Rico".
  • by downix (84795) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:18AM (#22794418) Homepage
    With the erasure of the analog spectrum, a whole range of learned skills will be forgotten, a whole range of home projects will vanish. Once the television spectrum is done, then comes Radio. As a kid, I made my own home AM radios, an incredibly useful tool for the budding EE's in the world. the loss of such profound examples will cut off the joy of home electronic projects to another generation.
    • by Trigun (685027) <evil@3.14evilempire.ath.cx minus pi> on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:23AM (#22794472)
      Microwave ovens are more fun, and they operate in the public spectrum.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bombula (670389)
      Maybe. But the joy of pottery is still around, even though people haven't made their own crockery in Western societies for centuries.
    • by dissy (172727)

      As a kid, I made my own home AM radios, an incredibly useful tool for the budding EE's in the world. the loss of such profound examples will cut off the joy of home electronic projects to another generation.

      This just means the opportunity for learning has tripled!

      Now kids can learn how to make an AM radio,
      followed by an AM transmitter,
      followed by 'daddy why are you making me do this?' ;}

      Kidding aside, I too remember building similar things, AM radios powered from the airwaves, followed by better amped receivers, moving on to FM and learning how stereo sound is sent.

      While it is sad such projects will eventually be no more, and the new technologies that are replacing them are either locked up in corporate paten

    • by Marvin01 (909379) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @10:04AM (#22794884)
      Since I can buy a microcontroller for $4US that has better specs than my original desktop computer, I hardly think that home electronic projects will go away any time soon, or indeed at all. They just might be different, just like everything else related to technology.
    • by Applekid (993327)

      The loss of such profound examples will cut off the joy of home electronic projects to another generation.
      The future generation will have other things to work with. Budding EEs play with microcontrollers that interpret BASIC, tap logic signals inside their toys, hack up keyboards to attach arcade joysticks and buttons, etc. They'll also take a liking to loitering on your lawn.
    • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @10:20AM (#22795064) Homepage
      Patently false. Even as Amateur Radio charges into the digital radio future, it will almost certainly still have analog transmission modes. We are allowed (and encouraged) to make our own equipment and to provide emergency communications and advance the radio art [arrl.org], which are part of our justification for existence. Since digital modes will take a long time to become de rigueur around the world, AM, FM, and SSB will be around for a long time.


      There are still tons of operators that run full double sideband, full carrier AM - although their signals are not the most spectrum-efficient on the air, their audio is usually great-sounding.

    • Analog skills are still alive and well and as important as ever. Behind every "digital" transmission system is an Analog Front End. Instead of building transistor radios in college electronics labs, we build frequency hopped radios and the like. As for home projects...they're still out there. Radios aren't as interesting, but other things have taken their place.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by HungSoLow (809760)
      I call BS. (I'm an EE doing my doctorate) Your argument is the same one people in the 50s made when transistors began replacing tubes. I'm sure similar paranoia occurred when combustion replaced steam, light bulbs replaced candles (ha!). It doesn't kill the hobbyist, it creates different ones. I was lucky enough to be on the tail end of analog and the budding beginnings of home brew digital (with uC's). Purely digital folks are not somehow disadvantaged... it's just a different take of engineering and ho
    • by vonhammer (992352)
      No need to panic. Many HAM radio operators build their own. Check out the excellent ARRL handbook.
    • by flynn23 (593401)
      Yes, just like the transition from tube to solid state ruined a whole generation of EE's.
  • $19.5 billion Pffft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NobleSavage (582615) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:21AM (#22794444)
    $19.5 billion, Sounds like such a small number these days... What is that, a few weeks in Iraq? Or, 1/10 the amount it cost to bail out Bear Sterns?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smooth wombat (796938)
      Or, 1/10 the amount it cost to bail out Bear Sterns?


      The government (i.e. the taxpayers) put up $30 billion to bail out Bear Stearns and allow JP Morgan to start buying them out. The $19.5 billion is then 2/3 of the price of the bail out.

      Granted, moral hazard has all but been abandoned by the supposed experts at the Fed but hey, it's not their money they're using. Besides, couldn't let their buddies have to suffer the slings and arrows of the free market, now could we?

      • by Luyseyal (3154)

        All the economists I've heard talk about it (about 4 different ones between All Things Considered [npr.org] and Marketplace [marketplace.org]) have said that the risk to the market of a failing major investment bank is worse than the risk of moral hazard, in this case. And you can't say that the owners of Bear Stearns haven't suffered. The stock went from $95 to $2.

        I do agree with you that, generally speaking, bail-outs suck.

        -l

        • Hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheLink (130905)
          I've heard a lot of economists and "experts" (and the IMF - who are neither ;) ) say a very different thing during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Especially the western ones.

          They were saying "no bailouts".

          I figure they wanted stuff to go bust so they could buy it all up cheap and thus gain more power and wealth.

          Hypocracy - the rule or power through hypocrisy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by smooth wombat (796938)
          have said that the risk to the market of a failing major investment bank is worse than the risk of moral hazard, in this case.

          Yes, I too have heard the same tripe sounded about why Bear Stearns could not fail and why they had to be bailed out (even if they are being bought out). The problem is, as we have now seen, someone would have stepped in to buy them and their assets anyway, so the government shoveling more money down the drain wouldn't have mattered.

          Yes, there would have been some constern

          • by Luyseyal (3154)
            Banks can do whatever they want. If they wanted savers, they could easily offer better interest rates, despite the Fed rates. However, that comes out of their pocket book (read: profits) and so they don't.

            My credit union has 6.01 APY checking right now. We take advantage of that. Why don't the other banks offer a similar service? Because they make so much more money from piles of consumer debt.

            I do want the "government [to] manipulate market conditions as best it can to promote upward swings while lessening
          • by giafly (926567)
            Unless you think $2.45 a share [guardian.co.uk] counts as a bail-out.

            The all-stock offer from JP Morgan values Bear Stearns at about $280 million, compared to its valuation of $7.7 billion a week ago - Reuters [reuters.com]

            The bail-out is to protect other banks who did business with Bear Stearns, possibly including the bank where you have your main account.

          • by mgblst (80109)
            Sorry, you clearly do not know of what you speak. You spout a lot of cliches and financial sounding words, but together it makes no sense.

            Bear Stearns couldn't unload its loans (this is what the gov bought for £30 billion), because nobody would buy them, since they are dodgey and have a high risk of defaulting.

            The way the market is supposed to work does not include huge crashes - this helps no-one. They are to be avoided, and it is accepted that governments will try to avoid crashes. This is not marke
            • Bear Stearns couldn't unload its loans (this is what the gov bought for £30 billion), because nobody would buy them, since they are dodgey and have a high risk of defaulting.

              In other words, supply and demand worked exactly as it should. A perfect example of the free market in action.

              The way the market is supposed to work does not include huge crashes - this helps no-one.

              Who says markets aren't supposed to work this way? Did someone code into the market forces a routine which specificall

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by R2.0 (532027)
        While I won't say that the Fed and the SEC have handled this whole situation well, I don't see this particular situation as having ANY good outcome. A run had actually started on Bear Stearns, and it was going to collapse totally within a couple of days. So their creditors would need to write off those debts. And since those debts are often held as collateral by other organizations, that puts them at risk too.

        And before going all populist with the "Good - serves them right" bit, remember that as it sprea
      • by afidel (530433)
        JP Morgan says they only intend to tap about $20B of the $30B limit, the discrepancy is just in case something is wrong with the current books.
    • by andphi (899406)
      19.5 billion is about a week and a half in Iraq, using the $12billion a week figure I've heard bandied, or using generous estimates, a WGA strike lasting a year and a half (with a loss figure of $2.1billion over nine weeks extrapolating out to about 19.5 billion over the course of ~80 weeks).
    • by Solandri (704621)

      $19.5 billion, Sounds like such a small number these days... What is that, a few weeks in Iraq? Or, 1/10 the amount it cost to bail out Bear Sterns?
      It's a bit more than a half a day's GDP for the U.S., which if you assume 250 business days a year and an 8-hour work day, is just under 3 hours.
    • BEAR STEARNS IS NOT A BAILOUT. That is, the Government isn't handing $30 billion to either Bear Stearns or JP Morgan. This effort has not cost taxpayers anything so far.

      The $30 billion involved in the JP Morgan buy-out of Bear Stearns is NOT a bail-out - it is a non-resource loan (think: loan guarantee) provided by the Federal Reserve system to JP Morgan, in order to induce JP Morgan to take over Bear Stearns, by limiting the downside risks to the Bear Stearns assets that JPM is buying. The Federal R

      • Another relevant point: the Federal Reserve system is not a true U.S. governmental entity, so I'm not sure whether the $30 billion would be a true bailout in any event.

        They like to pretend like that they're independent, but really they're just a notion of Congress - after all, they create money, and only Congress can do that. Of course, maybe the problem here is the notion of 'creating money'.

        Summary: JP Morgan bought Bear Stearns in a private takeover, and the Federal Reserve system guaranteed the perform
    • You forget they're selling a resource they paid nothing to create. That's $19.5 billion pure profit*!!!

      (* Calculation of profit does not include costs of discovering, monitoring, administrating, or policing the electromagnetic spectrum.)
  • Guy is deep in debt. His kids have had to leave their private school. His furniture has been reposed. The sheriff has put up a foreclosure notice on his front door. He comes home smiling. His wife asks him why he's smiling.

    "Because I just won $50 on a lottery ticket!"

  • when do they tell us that verizon now owns it?
    • by *weasel (174362)
      As soon as they beg one of the C Block also-rans (google) into taking the D Block - so they can pretend that counts as competition to Verizon and AT&T.
  • oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @09:43AM (#22794666) Homepage Journal
    Instead of rights to electromagnetic spectrum, box contained bobcat. Would not buy again. [xkcd.com]
  • I just looked up the figures from a few years (I think it was 2000) past when UMTS (Mobile Broadband, forget what it's called in the states) frequencies where on auctioned here in Northern Europe:

    Germany netted a total of 111 billion euros.

    Great Brittain 85 billion.

    The Netherlands 5.9 billion.

    • More like 100 billion DM [psu.edu]. I don't really remember the exchange rates but I think it's about 50 billion EUR.
    • Quate from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]: "In Europe, the license process occurred at the end of the technology bubble, and the auction mechanisms for allocation set up in some countries resulted in some extremely high prices being paid, notable in the UK and Germany. In Germany, bidders paid a total 50.8 billion euros for six licenses, two of which were subsequently abandoned and written off by their purchasers (Mobilcom and the Sonera/Telefonica consortium)."

      When compared to Europe and the auctions held in Germany and UK,

      • by afidel (530433)
        It shouldn't be strange considering that the European mobile carriers realized quite quickly that there was no way to monetize the spectrum sufficiently to pay off the huge fees paid for the auction.
  • "Having received bids totaling $19.5 billion over 260 rounds of bidding, the FCC has announced the closing of Auction 73. The Chairman's statement notes that the auction has "raised more money than any [FCC] auction has ever raised"

    While I'm glad the spectrum will be going back into private hands, I'm sad that the FCC is gaining so much revenue from something they never should have owned in the first place. Leave it to government agencies to take what's not theirs and sell it back to the public for profit.

    • I'm sad that the FCC is gaining so much revenue from something they never should have owned in the first place.
      I may be mistaken, but isn't this kind of management of the spectrum exactly what the FCC was created for?
    • The TV channels 52 to 83 were ALREADY in private hands (assigned to local television stations) for the least fifty years.

      The actual ownership of that EM spectrum is by "the people" (us).

      The FCC administers how it is used.
      The FCC decided to remove 52-83 from local stations,
      and reassign it to a new market (highest bidder).

  • All that means... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sigmon (323109)
    ...is that the Federal Government just instituted another tax (a $19 Billion tax) - that I must pay - in order to use the supposed 'public' airways. Used for some telecomm service - there'll be an additional tax on top of that. ....And we wonder why our wireless phone bills are so high.
  • gonna be a ton of old broadcast equipment laying around. Anyone find a use?
  • What's going to happen to it all? My votes on disappearing into various executive pockets

  • Am I the only one that has a fundamental problem with the fact that the FCC is even allowed to do this? Admittedly, I don't understand the ins and outs of the entire spectrum business, but how does a federal agency have the right to charge anyone anything for use of the airwaves? The cost of this is going to go right back to the users of the spectrum, not the company. And what does the FCC do with the 19 Billion dollars they raised?

    I have a hard time believing that US citizens come out better for this, i
    • by amliebsch (724858) on Wednesday March 19, 2008 @11:31AM (#22795956) Journal
      The first premise, if you accept it, is that some mechanism must exist to allocate ownership rights over different parts of the spectrum covering different locations, because otherwise a tragedy of the commons occurs, where having greater than one users of a frequency results in uselessness of the frequency through "pollution."

      Having established that ownership rights need to be allocated, the question becomes how to allocate them. Economically, the most sensible solution is an auction of this type, for the reason that the auction winners will be the enterprises who are able to pay the most, under the principle that the reason they are able to pay the most because their goods and/or services provide or are likely to provide the greatest value to the market, and ultimately, society. Thus, you end up with the most economically efficient allocation of the spectrum.

      Other alternatives for allocation also have problems. A lottery could easily result in relatively useless owners possessing the rights while those with a product much more highly valued by the public are denied. A political determination would result in the usual pork-barelling and outright corruption.

      • by lutz7755 (1046792)

        I disagree wholehartedly with the idea that the company with the most money will offer the best service to the customer.
      • by eddeye (85134)

        Economically, the most sensible solution is an auction of this type, for the reason that the auction winners will be the enterprises who are able to pay the most, under the principle that the reason they are able to pay the most because their goods and/or services provide or are likely to provide the greatest value to the market, and ultimately, society. Thus, you end up with the most economically efficient allocation of the spectrum.

        Your entire post is basically correct. However, the key phrase above is

  • Why does the government sell the spectrum, rather than lease it? Why aren't these frequencies an annuity for the public, rather than a profitable secondary market for private interests? I feel ripped off, no matter what the sale price.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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