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CTIA drops open-access challenge over 700 MHz C Block

The mobile-phone industry has dropped a legal challenge to the open-access condition imposed on a third of the 700 MHz spectrum auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year.
Wireless industry trade association CTIA appealed the agency’s C-Block open-access rule last year – several months before the Jan. 24 start of the 700 MHz auction, though not with the intention of delaying bidding – immediately after Verizon Wireless abandoned efforts to have the decision overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Verizon Wireless subsequently paid $4.7 billion for a nationwide collection of regional, open-access licenses at the 700 MHz auction that ended in March. In addition, Verizon Wireless is pursuing an open-development initiative to allow third-party devices and applications throughout its national network.
“It is evident to even the most casual observer that the American consumer enjoys a handset marketplace that is vibrantly and fiercely competitive. The FCC’s suggestion to the contrary was not true then and it is not true today,” said Joe Farren, a CTIA spokesman. CTIA was to have filed its opening brief on Nov. 10 in the 700 MHz open-access litigation.
In its 700 MHz ruling, the FCC justified the C-Block open-access provision by concluding market forces have proved inadequate in giving consumers greater choice and fostering innovation insofar as handsets and applications.
“Throughout the last year, CTIA prosecuted a lawsuit against the government to maintain their closed networks, while simultaneously promising the government they would open up to applications like Skype,” said Christopher Libertelli, senior director of government and regulatory affairs at Skype Ltd. “Is it any wonder that some doubted their promises? It’s good that CTIA got off the FCC’s back, but their litigation strategy reminds us that we need enforceable openness rules for all wireless consumers.”
The software-based Internet phone company last year asked the FCC to apply to the wireless industry a requirement in the landmark 1968 Carterfone decision allowing third parties to attach devices to the public landline network. At CTIA’s trade show earlier this year in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told attendees he would push to have the Skype petition dismissed. The commission has yet to rule on petition, however.
Meantime, Skype and CTIA have traded barbs in recent months over whether the wireless industry is serious about opening its networks to outside devices and applications.
Regardless of how the GOP-led FCC might rule on open access in Martin’s remaining time on the job, the issue is bound to stay alive in light of strong support for net neutrality, a related issue, by President-elect Barack Obama and a Congress that will have bigger Democratic majorities as a result of the recent elections.

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