Consumers may get more wireless choices


Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON - The FCC approved rules Tuesday intended to give people more choice on their cell phones and wireless devices after a pivotal airwaves auction next year.

The vote clears the way for the airwaves auction, which is expected to raise as much as $15 billion.

The Federal Communications Commission approved a much-debated "open access'' provision, pushed by Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican, and supported by the agency's two Democrats, that will allow customers to use whatever phone and software they want on about one-third of the spectrum to be auctioned.

A more ambitious provision that would have required a licensee to sell access to its network on a wholesale basis was not included in the rules. That makes it unlikely that Google Inc. will bid. Google had been expected to challenge traditional wireless companies if the rules had been favorable.

The rules also will allow for the creation of a shared public safety network that commissioners hope will solve many of the communication problems that firefighters and other first responders have experienced during disasters like the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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