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FCC Commissioner Urges ‘Outreach’ to Broadcasters on Spectrum Auction

Clear, consistent information about the ‘repacking process’ needed

WASHINGTON—Broadcasters, including non-commercial television and radio broadcasters, need to be informed of the opportunities available to them through the broadband spectrum incentive auction plan devised by the Federal Communications Commission, a FCC commissioner told Government Video.
“It is vitally important that we have outreach to the broadcasting community so they understand the law, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act” [of 2012, P.L. 112-96], FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said following a Dec. 12, 2012 hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The incentive auction plan can help “broadcasters who want to remain in the business of broadcasting,” she said.
The hearing—Keeping the New Broadband Spectrum Law on Track—covered how the FCC plans to implement the incentive auction, and how it can “maximize the proceeds” for the federal government. All five FCC commissioners were witnesses.
“The U.S. has long led the world in spectrum auctions with an auction model based on the elegant simplicity of one core concept,” said Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. That concept is, “markets, not the whims of regulators, are best suited to ensure that spectrum is put to productive and innovative use,” he said.
In addition, while the subcommittee does not want to “mico-manage how the FCC operates the auction,” Walden said, “overly prescriptive auction rules can lead to less than successful auction results.” The chairman cited a commission attempt to auction spectrum in the 700 Megahertz band that the “FCC so encumbered” the auction with rules that only “a few token bids” were made.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski responded by listing the five goals of the spectrum auction. Those goals are:

  • Maximizing the overall amount of spectrum freed up while enabling the continued role of a healthy broadcast industry
  • Maximizing broadcaster participation in the auction by making the auction process as transparent and easy to understand as possible
  • Provide funding for the broadband network for first responders
  • Focusing on engineering and economic by drawing on the expertise of the world’s leading economists, auction design experts and engineers, both inside and outside the agency.
  • Engage all stakeholders so the commission will learn when to adjust the proposals as necessary

In addition, the FCC has established an information program called “Broadcaster LEARN” (Learning Everything About Reverse Auctions Now) which is designed to inform broadcasting decision makers as they “consider the business opportunities that incentive auctions create,” Genachowski said.
While there is an information program, Rosenworcel emphasized the need to conduct outreach, which “has to proceed on two fronts.” The efforts of those “fronts” are:

  • Broadcasters who want to remain in the business of broadcasting should be informed in a clear, consistent and transparent way, about the repacking process and the obligations the agency has under the law and how it might impact them
  • The FCC should engage in outreach for that other community of broadcasters that might be interested in the opportunities associated with this auction such as relinquishing their spectrum entirely, or sharing spectrum with other broadcasters, or relocating from the UHF to the VHF band

The commission needs to have two different types of outreach ongoing at the same time, she said.