This is an exciting year for wireless in the US! Now that analog television broadcasting is shutting down completely on February 17th, 2009, there's going to be a chunk of frequency freed up for wireless bandwidth - especially for fast 3G cellphone service!!! OHMYGOD I JUST CAN't WAIT!
How is this going to happen? In preparation for the freed up space in 2009 when analog television will die, the FCC is auctioning this 700mhz spectrum, a highly valued space for services like 3G, off to the highest bidders on January 24th, 2008. This means we as consumers will finally have more choices in cell phone services and faster data download times.
However exciting this is, I am critical of how this process is being carried out. Cutting through all the techie hoopla, there are some critical trends to point in how the government is regulating spectrum space and communication.
This latest auction treats spectrum space as private goods. In its sole federal jurisdiction of radio-magnetic spectrum, spectrum space is handled as private property by the FCC, not public property or public property for mixed purposes—private and public. So there is nothing here that parallels the movement in cable television that created the space and funding for "public access." Herein lies one of the most ignored, yet important aspects of the " information age." If the very medium in which all of Internet communications will travel through will be entirely dominated by corporations with no socially minded oversight by the government, there will are less chances for social correctives to ensure equal and fair access to this medium. Corporations can charge what they deem as the market rate for broadband access.
In essence, we are moving away from the precedence of Universal Access
that was in place for landline telephones (as established by the
Communications Act of 1934 and as was retroactively interpreted as the
basis of UA policy).
Spectrum inequality leads to Internet access inequality. Compared to the rest of the world, the US is currently in 24th place in broadband penetration, with only 53% of households connected (Point Topic 2007). THIS IS HORRIBLE!!! South Korea is in 1st place! So trends in the telecommunication regulation, like this upcoming auction signals to dwindling of the social right to communication infrastructures.
I am very uncomfortable with this trend! Already within the last 10 years, neo-liberal market policies have radically restructured social institutions. As a result, social goods are increasingly redefined as market goods that are available based on an individualistic cost-benefit analysis, instead of on a collective, common goods rationale. This is scary! As a result, there is a thinning of social citizenship, in what Fraser and Gordon argue that long-standing social rights become stigmatized as “hand-outs” and incumbent upon the individual or nuclear family to fulfill the social need.
So even though I am SUPER EXCITED to finally be on a 3G network, I keep in mind that there are large groups of people who are excluded from this for various reasons, from digital literacy or to companies not even offering this in their area or just being priced out.
This doesn't stop me from getting SUPER EXCITED about my next cellphone!!! ANy suggestions? and GUESS WHAT what - I think I will be ready to switch from Verizon to AT&T! I am mentally preparing for this now. I am also looking forward to seeing how Sprint and Nextel customers like WiMaxx. Although I would love to be on WIMAXX because it's faster than 3G, it won't be available in enough areas. In San Diego, I don't even have cell signal from AT&T or Verizon inside my house! So I am sure WiMaxx will not have much penetration beyond concentrated urban areas. Also, everyone is keeping an eye on Google, who's trying to enter the cellphone market with their newly developed open software mobile phone application.
HERE ARE MY 2008 WIRELESS GOALS:
1.) get rid of my treo and find another phone that will make me happy. I will have to give up on the touchscreen where I can draw circles around titillations or titicacas - and I think I will be ready for this. I long suppressed the knowledge that treos are one of the highest emitters of radiation. It's time for me to face up to it.
2.) Start researching my potential switchover to AT&T.
3.) I need to be more understanding of the screwed up wireless infratructure in the US. We are such a backward wireless country! Children in Japan text better than me.
4.) stop threatening to move to Japan, South Korea or the Netherlands just for a happier wireless world.
5.) Be more involved in raising awareness about spectrum equality and internet access as a social right.
6.) Don't throw away my used wireless phones - research where to donate them.
7.) If I switch to At&T, start a strategic campaign to convince all my friends to switch themselves and their entire families over to AT&T.
8.) Stop discriminating and judging people based on their wireless carrier or cell phone.
9.) Be more accepting of friends and colleauges who don't text message. Just because people don't SMS does't mean that they aren't wonderful people with fulfilling lives.
10.) Start calling friends who are not with the same company as me. Sorry AT&T friends, I have not been a good wireless friend because I am with Verizon. But that may all change!
11.) stay hopeful that in my lifetime that my body can become one big mobile device with a simple operation underneath my arm. My dream is for my body to become one with the Internet. Please, one more sheet of acid will do.
12.) Do a better job of staying up to date with wireless developments in China.