McCain Urges Northpoint to Disclose Info


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Sep 8, 2003
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John McCain, the Arizona Republican and chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Northpoint Technology asking for information concerning the company's backers.

In the letter, McCain pointed to two pieces of legislation circulating on Capitol Hill that would prevent auctions for Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS), the wireless spectrum Northpoint is seeking for its business. "Northpoint is widely regarded to be in position to receive free licenses should either bill become law," McCain said.

McCain also said recent reports indicated that Northpoint has provided financial interests in the company to well-connected individuals. The list provided in the senator's letter included unnamed relatives of Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), former President Clinton aide Betsey Wright, a former director of the Mississippi Republican Party, the wife of a former aide to Sen. Conrad Burns, and "major Democratic moneymen."

"In the interest of providing members of Congress the necessary facts to render an informed decision on the bills mentioned above, I urge Northpoint to disclose information regarding who stands to gain from the assignment of free licenses," McCain wrote.

In response, Robert Udowitz, spokesperson for the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, said, "We believe that Sen. McCain is rightfully responding to an important link that up until now has been hidden in the shadows of Northpoint. The senator is asking some critically important questions to a company that has spent the last couple of years actively lobbying for what could be a $100 million spectrum giveaway at the expense of the taxpayer and competition."

Satellite interests have been fighting MVDDS, fearing that the spectrum-sharing technology will interfere with satellite signals.

Another article on the MVDDS Debate from our friends at

By Kirk Kirkpatrick

As president and CEO of MDS America, the only company to have built MVDDS systems, I would like to respond to the "Northpoint Speaks" article in your fine publication.

Ms. Sophia Collier's characterization of the plight of Northpoint Technology before the FCC is a textbook example of political spin, deliberately designed to distract you from the true facts. Superficially, her story is a simple one: Northpoint "simply seeks the same licensing terms that have so far been successful for the satellite industry." What she omits is precisely what your readers need to know.

First of all, my company, MDS America, is not a satellite company, but a provider of wireless, digital TV and Internet service that already has operations in a number of other countries, including such remote places as Greenland and as consumer-oriented as Lyons, France. We specialize in providing rural service, and we make the equipment that provides it. We're not asking anyone to award us the spectrum for free - as Northpoint is demanding. We are fully prepared to bid at the auction that the FCC has scheduled for Jan. 14, 2004. And we are not alone. There are many other businesses with the same interest, any number of which are not satellite companies and have received nothing for free from the FCC. If we are successful in the auction, we are fully committed to having systems in place in this country within six months, at a target monthly cost of less than $30.

By contrast, Ms. Collier urges us to "imagine" her product in operation. We will have to, because she fails to tell us that Northpoint does not have a system, nor has it ever had one - anywhere. Despite its promises, it simply cannot possibly provide rural service within our time frame. What she really wants is a financial windfall that will make her and her investors rich overnight.

Ms. Collier also fails to tell your readers that the auction she wishes to avoid would net the taxpayers between $60 million and $100 million, an asset she wants for free. She does not disclose that FCC Chairman Michael Powell, in an Oct. 7 letter to House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf, has concluded that Northpoint's proposal "would not be in the public interest" and, if successful, would constitute "a potential multimillion-dollar government-created giveaway."

Ms. Collier instead characterizes her company as a victim, with the satellite industry enjoying unfair advantages. Well, as I noted at the outset, MDS America is not a satellite company. Why shouldn't we and other companies be allowed to bid on the spectrum, and provide consumers these services? Before Northpoint is allowed to feed at the public trough, to the financial benefit of a privileged few, the public ought to know the full facts, and not just be asked to "imagine" what they are.

(Please note, opinions expressed by the writer of this column and last week's "Northpoint Speaks" article - - are that of the authors and not of SkyREPORT or its editors or writers. To e-mail the editor:

Kirk Kirkpatrick is President and CEO of MDS America, a company active in the MVDDS (Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service) proceeding at the FCC. He can be reached at:

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