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Scott Blake Harris describes his practice as “the intersection of law, policy, and technology.” Harris himself is known as the go-to lawyer for high-tech companies on issues that push the traditional bounds of telecom regulation. Take one current assignment — working as lead counsel for the White Spaces Coalition on behalf of such companies as Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Philips Electronics, and Google Inc. The group is seeking Federal Communications Commission approval for advanced wireless devices to operate in the “white spaces,” the unused frequencies between local television channels (like Channel 14 in Washington, D.C.). But broadcasters rely on the white spaces as a buffer so their transmissions don’t interfere with each other. Harris’ clients are attempting to convince the FCC and broadcasters that they can use this empty spectrum without interfering with TV signals. Microsoft and Philips recently submitted prototype devices to the FCC to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology. Kerry Murray, senior counsel for government relations at Dell Inc., another member of the White Spaces Coalition, describes Harris as “whip-smart, a good problem-solver, very practical, and tell-it-like-it-is.” She adds that he “understands the tech sector and our issues,” and she is impressed by his strong relationships at the FCC. It’s not the first time that Harris, 56, has been involved in a thorny disagreement over spectrum use. In 2005, he represented more than a dozen high-tech companies, including Intel and Cisco Systems Inc., in reaching a technical agreement with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Defense Department over use of the 5 GHz spectrum. As a result of that agreement, unlicensed commercial wireless devices are now allowed to share spectrum with sophisticated military radar. Harris also advises Microsoft, Cisco, and Apple Inc. on broadband policy and device certification issues both in the United States and overseas. Mary Brown, director of technology and spectrum policy at Cisco, praises Harris for his “level of fluency in issues affecting the tech sector,” which she describes as “unparalleled in Cisco’s experience.” She adds, “Scott listens. Not just to issues that need to be resolved in a legal or regulatory forum, but to business problems that need to be addressed. And then he takes action. So if something needs to be improved in your business relationship or changed in some way to address new challenges, he engages and executes a plan to resolve whatever it is that needs modification.” Another current client is Vonage Holding Corp., which provides VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone service. Harris is making the case for the company on issues related to universal service and implementation of enhanced 911 service. The latter will ensure that a caller’s physical location can be identified and transmitted to public safety officials when an emergency call is made. He’s also representing Telcordia Technologies Inc., which last month filed a petition asking the FCC to restore competition in the selection and administration of local number portability service — that is, the service that allows users to keep the same phone number when they switch telecom carriers. NeuStar Inc. is the only company providing database administration. Harris received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1976, then clerked for U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell of the District of Columbia. He went on to join Williams & Connolly, where he worked on a range of civil, white-collar criminal, and international litigation. In 1993, he left the firm to serve as chief counsel for export administration at the Commerce Department. A year later, he was tapped by then-FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to launch the agency’s new international bureau. Responsibilities included international and satellite communications policy and licensing. He also worked with the U.S. Trade Representative on the World Trade Organization telecom agreement, which Harris says “opened the U.S satellite market to competition.” In 1996, Harris returned to private practice, joining the D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher along with his top two FCC deputies and former Williams & Connolly colleagues, William Wiltshire and Mark Grannis. Two years later, the trio decided to form Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis. The firm now boasts 26 lawyers, including noted colleagues Christopher Wright and John Nakahata. “We thought that we could be most efficient doing high-tech and telecom work in a boutique firm,” says Harris, who serves as managing partner. “I love what I do.”

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