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McCain Not Pleased With Northpoint

Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is unhappy with Northpoint Technology Ltd., as he believes it failed to provide all the names of people who would benefit if the Federal Communications Commission awarded it a nationwide video and data spectrum license.

"We are not satisfied with their response because we believe it is not a thorough picture of who will benefit if Congress gives spectrum to Northpoint and are considering our options for our next step," McCain spokeswoman Rebecca Hanks said.

Last Tuesday, in response to an Oct. 20 letter from McCain, Northpoint provided the names of its owners, lobbyists and affiliates — in all, a list that included dozens of people. The affiliate agreements have expired because the FCC did not award spectrum to the company prior to March 31, 2003, Northpoint said.

Northpoint chairwoman Sophia Collier told McCain that her company would provide more than 90 channels of video programming for $20 a month and high-speed data for another $20, using a network of terrestrial transmitters that share direct-broadcast satellite spectrum.

"If licensed, our company is committed to deploying … systems in every local market in the country," Collier said, adding the company would carry every local TV station voluntarily.

McCain is concerned that Northpoint is lobbying Congress to obtain for free spectrum that could fetch $100 million in an auction the FCC plans to stage in January.

Collier, who has said an auction would bankrupt her company, told McCain that the legislation she supports would not guarantee Northpoint's gaining the spectrum because others are seeking FCC licenses in the same band.

The DBS industry strongly opposes Northpoint's use of the spectrum, arguing the company would scramble DBS signals going to millions of homes. But the FCC has determined that the spectrum can be shared without harmful interference.