FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell fired an unexpected shot at Comcast today as the regulatory agency invited the public to comment on a recent deal by the company and other operators to sell airwave spectrum they control to Verizon. Noting that Comcast’s CFO recently told analysts that the cable company never planned to built a business for the airwaves, McDowell asked: “Were they purchased under false pretences?” Federal law bars companies from warehousing spectrum. The deal with Verizon must be approved by the FCC and Justice Department before it can close. “Let’s be careful,” McDowell said at the 2012 International CES. “We want to be sure consumers have a disruptive and constructive marketplace….The commission has not done a good job of that in the past.” Another FCC Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn said that “we look at it on a case by case basis. …We’re not in isolation.”
Aside from those comments, the three current members of the FCC stuck to their familiar positions. Chairman Julius Genachowski says that he’ll continue his effort to secure airwave spectrum from broadcasters and auction it to wireless Internet providers. “New York has 28 full power over-the-air licenses,” he said. “No one can name 28 stations in New York.” He also blasted Verizon’s suit to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules saying that they “run the risk of creating uncertainty, unpredictability, and confusion.” Clyburn also favors net neutrality: “Over the last year just look at the innovation in this (Internet) space…I don’t believe (it) would have ocurred if we hadn’t moved in this direction.” McDowell took a different view, though, saying he’s “optimistic the courts will overturn it.” He added that “net neutrality was based on fear…The best way to solve issues is to have more competition.”
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