Mayor's Counsel Maya Wiley throws a monkey wrench at 3GPP, IEEE, and FCC. 7500 free gigabit Wi-Fi kiosks are sprouting around New York City. The city expects they will allow many unconnected New Yorkers to go online, despite the high prices of Verizon and the cable guys.
Why buy an expensive wireless plan if you can connect via WiFi in home, office, and most of the city? Playing defense, Verizon has mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to divert much of the WiFi spectrum to the four big wireless carriers. The carriers could easily absorb half the Wi-Fi bandwidth using the wide 40 MHz channels. Counsel Wiley writes:
"New York City is committed to ensuring digital inclusion of all our residents, no matter their zip code or income. … Therefore, the city has embarked on an aggressive effort to achieve universal broadband for all New Yorker. … WiFi is a central part of this effort and any technological interference with our ability to deliver free and affordable wireless access to our residents is of grave concern.
"Even a modest loss of coverage for a WiFi hotspot, when multiplied and magnified over the scale of New York City, could affect millions of users daily and decrease the value of hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment. WiFi is the most available and affordable wireless broadband technology. Clearly, any threat to Wi-Fi is a threat to the very fabric of the city."
Wiley is a political heavyweight, with 20 years of experience as a civil rights advocate. Besides the FCC, she sent the note to Satoshi Nagata and Dino Flores at the IEEE. Flores should have stepped aside on LAA because his company, Qualcomm, hopes to make $billion or more in royalties. Instead, Flores is the lead spokesman for 3GPP on LAA. Nagata, a thoughtful engineer, works for NTT DOCOMO, which tries to avoid controversy.
At the FCC, the city targeted Gigi Sohn, the influential special counsel to the FCC, long a fighter for consumer interests; Walter Johnston of the Office of Engineering, who keeps a low profile but is respected and extremely well-informed; Ed Smith and Jonathan Wilkes. Word is getting around the FCC that giving Verizon so much free spectrum reduces their incentive to bid in the coming auction and directly hurts the U.S. Treasury
3GPP is a corporate-only group where the industry leaders get together to set the rules for the rest of us. The engineering work on LTE has been exceptional. Unfortunately, they have no mechanism to incorporate the public interest or the needs of the developing world. I can offer many examples.
NTIA lead Larry Strickling, Internet Society CEO Kathy Brown, and even Vint Cerf are all strong proponents of representative and multistakeholder standards at 3GPP. More to come.