A new startup has managed to stir the pot on the 700MHz auction by proposing to build and maintain a national network for both public and commercial interests. Frontline Wireless wants to take the 24MHz of spectrum reserved for police, fire and other emergency use and make it available to everyone while giving emergency workers priority use. Frontline's proposal sounds very similar to Google's push to make the band into a vendor neutral wholesale network that any device could connect to with Frontline simply maintaining it.
Naturally, Frontline's proposal came under immediate fire in the Senate hearing and big telco is already aligning itself to oppose anything but a "winner take all" auction of this valuable wireless spectrum, public interest be damned. Personally, I believe the idea to have a company be no more than a network maintainer is probably a good idea, similar to how there is a gatekeeper for domain name registrations. A vendor-neutral wireless network would encourage us to standardize our various wireless devices and free up a lot of other bandwidth, notably the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz ranges used by cell phones. It could also enable the use of a "cellular Carterphone" regulation that requires interoperable handsets between cellular carriers. The question is if the telcos will let this UTOPIA-style model come to pass or not.