Will the Real Kevin Martin Please Stand Up?

Kevin Martin has had it pretty rough these last few weeks.

The guy can’t catch a break — from being painted as a bully and a bad manager by a House committee report to being dressed down by the Commerce Secretary and called out as crooked by The Wall Street Journal.

If I were him, I’d bury myself in tasks related to my imminent job search.

The latest controversy surrounds the FCC’s planned auction of a currently idle band of wireless spectrum known as “AWS-3,” which is due to take place later this month.

Strings Attached

The idea is that the FCC would auction off the band with a set of restrictions attached: The winning bidder would have to set aside a quarter of the bandwidth for free Internet access that would include a filter to block adult content. The conditions are remarkably similar to the business plan of one particular carrier, M2Z Networks.

The White House, specifically Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Martin expressing the Bush Administration’s displeasure with the plan.

Gutierrez argues that attaching restrictions to the auction is inviting problems, and what companies do with the airwaves ought to be left to the free market.

Curious Connections

The Journal, in a separate opinion article, points out that M2Z Networks is backed by Kleiner Perkins. A January auction with similar conditions favored startup carrier Frontline Networks, backed by Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr. Frontline folded before it could take part in the auction, and the licenses didn’t sell.

Based on the political stereotypes, it’s hard to figure out just what makes Martin tick. He’s shown what many would consider a Democratic-like distrust of the free-market approach, but only insofar as it benefits those who could be seen as his cronies — which is much more characteristic of the current, Republican administration (though there’s no shortage of cronyism among Democrats as well).

Consider this: He was a staunch supporter of the plan to provide Internet access over the white spaces between digital television channels, a cause championed by Google and opposed by the National Association of Broadcasters.

At a glance, it appears he is backing the new-economy, don’t-be-evil gang and taking on Big Business in the form of the studios, right?

Where did Google get its startup funding? Well, part of it came from Kleiner Perkins. And everyone knows the studios are staffed by rich liberals who tend to support Democrats. Then again, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been an unabashed Obama backer. See? Hard to pin down.

Identity Crisis

So, is he an altruist who just wants to make sure everyone in the U.S. has access to broadband Internet, or is he just interested in helping out his buddies while spinning it as being for the greater good?

Time will tell, I suppose. This much is for sure: It isn’t likely that Martin, who served on the Bush transition team and also the Florida recount committee that helped land the current administration in the White House, will be around after January.

With FCC Chairman at the top of his resume, at least Martin’s got a chance of landing a good job once the new boss moves in.

Maybe Kleiner Perkins has an opening.

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