SpectrumTalk

The independent blog on spectrum policy issues
that welcomes your input on the key policy issues of the day.

Our focus is the relationship between spectrum policy
and technical innnovation.

Mitchell Lazarus Retiring

mitch retirement - post - 6

Mitch Lazarus, a long time spectrum attorney, has announced his pending retirement (“mostly”). CommLawBlog gives this summary of his career:

Mitch came to the law the long way around and relatively late in life. Holding advanced degrees from M.I.T. and Georgetown University in three different fields, he has earned his living as an electrical engineer, psychology professor, education reformer, educational TV developer, free-lance writer, and (until now) telecommunications lawyer. His legal specialty, in addition to fixed microwave communications, has been securing regulatory approvals for new technologies. Most of this work involves behind-the-scenes industrial and commercial devices, but CommLawBlog readers will be familiar with at least two of his successes: contemporary Wi-Fi and the “millimeter wave” body scanners used at U.S. airports.


As of today ECFS has 640 filings he authored since 1999. Many deal with unlicensed issues, an area that he spent a lot of time in. For example, he represented the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance before it was renamed the more familiar Wi-Fi Alliance. He also was a cofounder of the FCBA’s Engineering and Technology Practice Committee and strongly supported its activities.

He will not be abandoning the spectrum policy field completely, remaining “of counsel” at Fletcher Heald & Hildreth, although he will be pursuing interests such as finishing a book about the Manhattan Project.

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Happy 150th Birthday Maxwell's Equations!

Maxwell

As shown above, December 8 is the 150th anniversary of James Clerk Maxwell’s presentation on electromagnetic theory to the Royal Society in London. While the 4 equation for the interaction of electric and magnetic fields that we techies know well were not written in the current form for another 20 years, the basic theory was all there in complex form involving 20 equations. (Oliver Heaviside, who is mentioned parenthetically in a song in the musical Cats, was later responsible for the 4 equation version and the modern vector notation.)

Maxwell showed how previous electrical and magnetic observations were all consistent and related to each other and also predicted electromagnetic waves, e.g. radio and light. Maxwell died in 1879. In 1886 Heinrich Hertz of Technische Hochschule (now the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) in Karlsruhe, Germany demonstrated that electromagnetic waves/radio waves actually exist.

The current issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine has a nice article for general audiences on how this all came about and its significance. Below are the 4 equations, in differential form - physicists often prefer the integral form - along with Spectrum’s brief summary.


MaxEq

Today, the relationship between electricity and magnetism, along with the wave nature of light and electromagnetic radiation in general, is encoded in the four “Maxwell’s equations” shown above. The equations can be written in different ways. Here, J is the current density. E and B are the electric and magnetic fields, respectively. And there are two other fields, the displacement field D and the magnetic field H. These fields are related to E and B by constants that reflect the nature of the medium that the fields pass through (the values of these constants in vacuum can be combined to give the speed of light). The displacement field D was one of Maxwell’s key contributions, and the last equation describes how both current and changing electric fields can give rise to magnetic fields. The symbols at the beginning of each equation are differential operators. These compactly encode calculus that involves vectors, quantities that have a directionality and thus x, y, and z components. Maxwell’s original formulation of his electromagnetic theory contained 20 equation

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Fox News Rants on "War on Christmas" While FCC "War on Millimeter Waves" Continues


XmasWar

Today, in time for the holiday season, The Washington Post reports that Bill O’Reilly is back to his ranting on the “war on Christmas”. Something that is not obvious as holiday decorations are going up everywhere and holiday music is becoming ubiquitous.

But also today I got from a client an FCC rejection of a millimeter wave experimental application that had the attached explanation:

“You are advised that the Commission is unable to grant your application for the facilities requested. We have received an objection to your application from NSF. If you still wish to pursue this testing, you should exclude the passive band (X - Y) GHz on your application to further discuss your request prior to refilling.” (We are not giving the exact band here to protect the privacy of the applicant)”


This action is a natural consequence of the bizarre revision of § 5.85(a) in the Report and Order of Docket 10-236 on January 31, 2013 that apparently was a clerical error! A timely Petition for Reconsideration as filed by your blogger and received support from several parties, including Boeing - a real Fortune 500 corporation with a real lawyer representing them! Since then - NOTHING! Except of course, today’s rejection of the client’s application. (Your blogger was not involved in the filing, so this rejection is actually income generating, so thanks FCC in a way!)

The § 5.85(a) problem is only one part of the FCC’s 3 prong “war on millimeterwaves”. As described here previously, the other 2 prongs are:
  • The inaction on the 7/1/13 IEEE-USA petition seeking to to declare technology above 95 GHz to be presumptively “new technology” in the context of 47 USC 157 and therefore entitled to timely consideration with the burden of proof on those opposed to such new technology
  • The failure of the RF safety NPRM, Docket 13-84, to propose quantitative safety standards above 100 GHz even though it is based on an IEEE standard that goes to 300 GHz.

While one might argue that the NOI in Docket 14-177 is a major change in the “war on millimeter waves”, a careful reading shows that the authors tried very hard to limit the coverage to both 24-86 GHz only as well as to mobile only, although there is passing mention of cellular backhaul.

So while the “war on Christmas” exists only in the minds of a few people at Fox News, the “war on millimeter waves is quite real at FCC!
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New Technologies for Wi-Fi

CommMagWiFicov
Recently we wrote about an IEEE Wireless Communications magazine issue on new technologies for 5G cellular. Another part of ComSoc has produced a white paper on “Novel Spectrum Usage Paradigms for 5G” (If you want an independent point of view on new wireless technologies, here is a 5G white paper from NTT DOCOMO, the major Japanese carrier.)

The unlicensed crowed has not been sitting on its hands while all this new technology has been developed on the cellular side. IEEE Communications magazine in its November 2014 issue has a focus on the “The Future of Wi-Fi”.

upcomingWiFitech

Above is a table from one of the Wi-Fi articles that gives some future versions of Wi-Fi along with their expected technical features.

These 4 papers give an overview of the new technologies that are expected to be implemented in licensed and unlicensed wireless communications in the next few years. The wireless mic gang might want to look at these technologies and ask why they are still obsessed with 1930s-based wideband FM. But other spectrum users, including federal users regulated by NTIA, might want to view these as a data point they should be judged by.
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Does Title II Regulation Inevitably Lead to Price Regulation?

This is a spectrum blog. We generally avoid nonspectrum issues and certainly have not written about net neutrality issues. But occasionally Title II issues of interest to your blogger do come up. A recurring topic in the net neutrality debate is whether Title II regulation of Internet would inevitably lead to price regulation of ISPs and resulting business uncertainty.

Let us give two cases where services clearly subject to Title II regulation have had so much forbearance that prices rose to levels that clearly were not in the public interest. In both cases FCC, at the urging of corporate interests no doubt, continue to forebear year after year, even decade after decade.

Case I: Prison telephone rates

We see headlines on the FCC site like “
FCC Continues Push to Rein in High Cost of Inmate Calling”. But dig a little deeper into the document linked to this headline and you see it starts with

“In 2013, nearly ten years after Martha Wright, a grandmother from Washington, D.C., petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) for relief from exorbitant long-distance calling rates from correctional facilities, the Commission took long overdue steps to provide relief to the millions of Americans paying unjust and unreasonable interstate inmate phone rates. These exorbitantly high rates discouraged phone calls and, at times, made it nearly impossible for inmates to maintain contact with their families, friends and communities, to society’s detriment.”


As a historical note, Ms. Wright’s grandson was actually released from prison before FCC acted on her petition! (Perhaps it is surprising that FCC did not use this as an excuse to dismiss the petition as moot.)

When FCC deregulated Operator Service Provider (OSP) prices in the 1980s because “competition was adequate” it continued to turn a blind eye to OSP pricing abuses for decades. While it should be clear that prison inmates are the original “captive audience” for carriers, it was not so clear to the leadership of the former Common Carrier Bureau and the present Wireline Competition Bureau who turned a blind eye to the problem year after year, decade after decade, under chairmen from both parties. No doubt pressure from corporate lobbyists seeking to maintain their high income streams did not hurt. Your blogger did some work for one of the carriers in this business (dealing only with cellular jamming policy within prisons) and it is the only client he ever had that he felt uncomfortable with due to the details of the business model that came up in discussions.

But FCC was perfectly able to forebear from regulation in this area even though net neutrality policy wonks think regulation is inevitable under Title II.

Case II: International telephone rates from cell phones and wireline carriers

OK, you may say that in the prison case they finally did regulate so it is inevitable. Here is an example where FCC forbearance continues despite not being in the public interest. Ever try to make an international call from your cellphone or landline? Consider this provision of
§ 201(b)

“All charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for and in connection with such communication service, shall be just and reasonable, and any such charge, practice, classification, or regulation that is unjust or unreasonable is declared to be unlawful”


Here are AT&T’s present rates for a call from a landline phone:

ATT-rate
(Clicker here to AT&T’s high rates to other countries)

While these rates are less than the AT&T rates from the 1970s, about $3/minute, they are not significantly less and certainly do not reflect the economies of today’s telecom technology. Why are these prices so high? (Trust me, the other cellular and wireless carriers are all about the same.) Forbearance! Public interest be damned, be nice to lobbyists and vested interests forbearance! Works at FCC under both parties.

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