FCC chief rebuffs wireless auction rule changes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday brushed aside proposals by Verizon Wireless to modify open-platform rules that the agency plans to impose in a January auction of key wireless spectrum.
The auction is expected to raise at least $10 billion for the U.S. government from airwaves being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analog signals in early 2009. The airwaves to be sold in the 700-megahertz band can travel long distances and penetrate thick walls.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the agency would not alter an auction requirement that the winner of the new spectrum must allow consumers to connect using any device or software.
"I don't have any plans to try to revise our open-platform rule the way Verizon wants us to," Martin told reporters outside a congressional hearing.
The auction, scheduled to begin on January 24, is widely seen as a last opportunity for a new player to enter the wireless market.
Verizon Wireless is owned by Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc.
Verizon Wireless filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia September 10 seeking to overturn open-access rules imposed by the FCC. Verizon had sought an expedited hearing, but the court denied the request.
Currently, U.S. wireless carriers restrict the models of cell phones that can be used on their networks. They also limit the software that can be downloaded onto them, such as ring tones, music or Web browser software.
The open-access rules have the support of Google Inc, a potential bidder in the auction, and consumer advocates, who say they will spur competition in the wireless business.
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