Verizon Wireless dropped its lawsuit this week seeking to block the open-access provisions of the FCC's auction of 700-MHz frequencies, according to several news reports.
The action clears the road of a potential major obstacle to the auction, which requires that the commercial winner of some of the spectrum allow third-party devices and applications to work on the frequencies.
It now appears that, regardless of which company successfully bids for that spectrum, consumers will be able to choose a mobile device, pick any service provider they want, and use any compatible, nonmalicious application for those frequencies.
FCC's 4-1 Vote
The company filed a notice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday to drop the appeal. This is the same court that had previously turned down Verizon Wireless' effort to have its suit considered on a fast track so it could be decided before the auction in January.
The suit had attempted to require that the FCC drop its open-access conditions. In late July, the governmental body had voted 4-1 to approve Chair Kevin Martin's plan for adding open-access rules to a portion of the frequencies to be auctioned.
His plan required that consumers be allowed open choices as to which devices they select for use on those frequencies, as opposed to the current "locked" system in the U.S., where carriers control which devices and apps are available. It also required that third-party applications be allowed, assuming they weren't viruses or other malware.
Google and a coalition of companies and public-interest organizations had backed the open-access provision, as well as a so-called "wholesale" requirement. That provision would have required the licensee to sell access to the bandwidth on a wholesale basis to resellers, but it was not approved.
Wide Range of Reaction
The adoption of the open-access provision had received a wide range of reaction in the industry, although much of it was predictable. For example, the Consumer Electronics Association, whose membership roster includes mobile-device makers, had praised the open-access plan as supporting a "consumer's right to connect their choice of devices to networks."
The wireless industry's CTIA, on the other hand, said that the inclusion of open-device rules would encumber the auction "with mandates that could significantly reduce the number of interested bidders."
But, while Verizon Wireless had opposed open access, the wholesale provision, and similar proposed rules, AT&T eventually endorsed Martin's proposal. AT&T executives were quoted by news outlets as saying that the FCC appears to have struck a reasonable balance between the competing interests.
Verizon had been accused of lobbying the FCC members to change their vote. In reaction, Frontline Wireless had filed a complaint in late September with the FCC. It tried to get Verizon banned from the auction altogether because, Frontline claimed, Verizon had violated lobbying rules by failing to provide adequate information about its efforts.