Paul Allen’s Wireless Dreams

Gabelli isn’t the only one looking for licenses in the upcoming FCC spectrum auction, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is also looking to bid. According to FCC records, a company called Bend Cable Communications, backed by Paul Allen and his firms, Vulcan Spectrum and Charter Communications, has filed for the upcoming spectrum auction in partnership with a local Bend, Oregon cable company called Bend Broadband.

The spectrum auction will be held in August and is a major rebid of valuable licenses that could bring the FCC between $8 billion and $15 billion dollars. Allen’s plans to run a broadband provider started when he bought a major share in cable company Charter Communications in 1998 and the company now provides service to 5 million subscribers. Allen has bought spectrum before and was reported to have purchased $15.1 million worth of spectrum in 2002 through Vulcan and Charter. Interestingly, Bend Broadband was one of the first companies to deploy Moxi, Paul Allen’s media service combined with a set-top box. We called Allen’s firms and Bend Broadband and are still waiting to hear back.

Allen seems to have the same idea that the other cable companies are pushing–use wireless to fight the phone companies in the great subscriber acquisition race. A consortium called SpectrumCo., is backed by Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts, as well as Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, and Time Warner among others. A bid from Dolan family Holdings is backed by Charles Dolan, Cablevision’s Chairman, and Cable One bid under its own name. Allen’s bid was registered as “incomplete,” as was the cable group SpectrumCo., and Cable One’s applications. (Cable One also applied for “designated entity” status that could give it some advantages if accepted.) Dolan’s bid was the only one of the bunch accepted on the first round. All of the companies have a chance to update their applications by next week.

Adding wireless to the list of Allen’s across-the-board interest’s isn’t that big of a stretch. This is the man who funded SpaceShip One, a rock-n-roll museum, several media production companies and FlipStart, a mobile computer that will include cellular and wireless access. Did Paul Allen catch Google’s wireless bug?