FCC Head Pushes For Plan To Auction Airwaves
On Wednesday, the chief regulator of the U.S. telecommunications industry Julius Genachowski claimed that he had the support of senators on both sides of the political aisle to push forward with the so-called “incentive” auctions of wireless spectrum without legislative restrictions.
As chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Genachowski wants legislators to allow his agency the unrestricted authority to offer broadcasters a financial reward for giving back licenses on unused spectrums to the FCC so that they can be auctioned off to companies needing additional spectrum for mobile data services.
“There’s broad bi-partisan agreement [that] we need incentive auctions,” explained Genachowski to a group of industry leaders in his keynote speech at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
As evidence of this purported support, he referred to a letter that he had received a few days prior from a bipartisan group of senators. The letter stated that the legislators would endorse his bid to push the incentive auction through Congress.
In an interview with Reuters following the Las Vegas speech, Genachowski said: “I’m hopeful the message in that letter will be heard more widely.”
Mr. Genachowski cited modern trends in consumer technology in an attempt highlight the significance of the proposed legislation.
“Nowhere are the opportunities and challenges greater than with mobile broadband. Tablets, ultrabooks, 4G phones, machine-to-machine all [...] consume now and are going to consume more and more data,” he explained
“The plain fact is that the aggregated consumer demand for spectrum for broadband is increasing at a very rapid pace while the supply [...] of spectrum remains essentially flat.”
“We need to get this done now and we need to get it done right,” he added.
Essentially, Genachowski’s plan would allow TV broadcasters with excess spectrum to auction it off to the highest bidder.
Reiterating the importance that the FCC be given a free hand in managing these auctions, Genachowski told the audience that as discussions on the proposed legislation “get down to the wire,” the most import aspects of it are the so-called “proposals” which would stipulate and restrict how the organization conducts the auctions.
Among the more significant of these proposed legislative controls is one that would prevent the FCC from deciding whether restrictions could be placed on which companies can and can’t make bids in the auction, ostensibly in order to protect competition in the wireless industry.
Yet Genachowski has maintained that such restrictions would essentially tie the hands of the FCC, preventing it from conducting the auctions as it sees fit.
In an attempt to bolster confidence in the regulatory agency, he pointed to the fact that the FCC has successfully managed about $50 billion worth of wireless spectrum auctions in the course of the last two decades, adding that the FCC’s auctioning practices have even been adopted by agencies in other countries.
“It would not be wise to prejudge or micro-manage FCC auctions,” he said.
Genachowski has repeatedly warned legislators that the U.S. wireless industry is in danger of falling behind the rest of the world. Allowing the FCC to give wireless providers a chance to buy up additional airwaves, he believes, is just what the industry needs to stimulate new growth.
Genachowski stated that he hoped Congress would reach a decision on the auctioning plan by March 1st of this year, just in time for the proposal to be included in the vote on payroll tax legislation.
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