Former FCC Official Forms Tech Policy Advisory Group
BOULDER, COLO.: Dale Hatfield, a long-time advocate of
reforming spectrum policy, is forming a new voluntary Broadband Internet
Technical Advisory Group. Hatfield is a former chief technologist at the FCC
and now an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
There, he co-authored a 2006 paper with Phil Weiser recommending spectrum
policy reform. He recently testified before the House communications
subcommittee on the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, which he deemed “necessary
and critical” for any reallocation scheme. Spectrum inventory bills were
circulated during the last Congressional session following the FCC’s proposal
to reallocate broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband. None were passed.
Hatfield’s stated intention is to bring engineers and technical experts together
“to develop consensus on broadband network management practices or other
related technical issues.” The group could possibly weigh in on public
policy disputes, he said.
No broadcasters were included in the inaugural effort to form the group. AT&T,
Cisco Systems, Comcast, Dish Network, EchoStar, Google, Intel, Level 3
Communications, Microsoft, Time Warner Cable and Verizon sent representatives
to participate in the initial planning.
The Advisory Group is still incubating. Operational and organizational
structure is under development, as are specific functions such as outreach,
identification of best practices safe harbor issues online.
“The TAG will function as a neutral, expert technical forum and promote a
greater consensus around technical practices within the Internet community,” Hatfield
said. “The TAG would consider a number of factors in looking at technical
practices, including whether a practice is used by others in the industry;
whether alternative technical approaches are available; the impact of a
technical practice on other entities; and whether a technical practice is aimed
at specific content, applications or companies.”
The group’s structure is to be formalized “in the very near future,” he said.
Gigi Sohn of Washington consumer group Public Knowledge issued a verdict of
cautious optimism over the formation of the group.
“We believe there is a role for advisory groups to consult on items of
technical importance. Given that this advisory group is only just getting off
the ground, we are cautiously optimistic that it may do some good,” she said. “However,
we note that we will watch closely as the group develops policies and
processes, including figuring out who is eligible to join and the process by
which issues are submitted and decided. We note that the group as constituted
is currently dominated by the telecommunications industry.
“In addition, we emphasize that regardless of the degree of technical expertise
of this private-sector group, it is not a substitute for Federal Communications
Commission rules and enforcement procedures and it certainly should not be
interpreted as such by anyone.”
Hatfield and Weiser’s “
Property Rights in Spectrum” at the Cato Institute’s Web site.
Hatfield’s written testimony before the House subcommittee on communications is
-- Deborah D. McAdams