Jul 29, 2014

Hecklers Tell New FCC Chairman Cellphones Need Warning Labels

Several audience members were forced to leave after interrupting Tom Wheeler's speech at Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

Hecklers Tell New FCC Chairman Cellphones Need Warning Labels

Hecklers complaining about alleged health risks of wireless transmissions disrupted a speech Thursday by the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. 

Tom Wheeler, a former executive for cable and cellular phone trade associations who became FCC chair on Nov. 4, had just started a speech about national telecommunications policy when a heckler stood up.

"Hey, Tom, how many people have to die from brain cancer before the federal government puts warning labels on cell phones?" said a man in a suit jacket who appeared to be in his 20s. The man kept talking despite requests to stop from museum president John Hollar, who had just introduced Wheeler in the museum's second-floor Hahn Auditorium at the noon event, sponsored by the Commonwealth Club of California and recorded for broadcast by KQED-FM. 

Two museum staff people pulled the heckler from the crowd and led him out of the room as he yelled "Profits! Profits!" In response, Wheeler turned to Hollar and said, "John, it's great to be here," to laughter from the audience. 

Before his speech ended, three more hecklers, one who left by herself and two others who had to be taken out of the room, interrupted  Wheeler. Wheeler said the country is about to enter a historic "fourth great network revolution" of equal importance to the printing press, the railroad and electronic communications that began with the mid-19 century telegraph. 

"This fourth network revolution is the one you all here in the (Silicon) valley are leading, will continue to lead," Wheeler said. 

One part of the new revolution is the transition from the old-fashioned public switched telephone network, including copper landlines regulated like a public utility, to the all-Internet protocols over the less-regulated Internet, Wheeler said. 

The spectrum of frequencies that are underused by television broadcasting, the 600MHz band, will be put up for auction to the highest bidders in mid-2015, Wheeler said. The auction would give incentives to TV stations to make money by selling some of their spectrum for more "flexible uses," such as mobile services that increasingly need the new space for more customers, Wheeler said. 

"We are attempting something that has never been done before, but with our original spectrum auctions 20 years ago," he said.

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