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House GOP Lawmakers Concerned FCC Will Limit Spectrum Auction Bidders

Limiting auction participation will reduce the potential revenues, says a letter by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s leadership

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ committee that oversees broadcasting have expressed concerns over a Department of Justice filing suggesting the Federal Communications Commission should limit who can bid in the planned spectrum auctions.
The letter—signed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Republican leadership—says the DOJ’s suggestions are not consistent with the goals articulated by Congress in the law authorizing the spectrum auction, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112–96). If the DoJ’s proposal is adopted, the FCC will reduce the potential revenues from the auction and possibly even cause the auction to fail, says the letter, which is dated April 19.
In addition, when Congress authorized the FCC “to conduct an incentive auction of broadcast spectrum,” the lawmakers wanted the commission “to design an auction that would make more spectrum available to wireless carriers to meet soaring demand for mobile broadband use,” says the letter, which was signed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich, and Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta, R-Ohio, Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo.
“The reality is that the U.S. market is characterized by competition for bandwidth-hungry consumers and the exponential growth in the demand for spectrum caused by smartphones and tablets,” the letter says. “The spectrum vacated by broadcasters participating in the incentive auction should be available to any qualified bidder,” therefore, the FCC “should not pick winners and losers before the auction even commences.”
“The commission should focus on the capacity constraints faced by all wireless carriers, rather than upon the DOJ’s unsubstantiated speculation about the theoretical incentives that carriers may or may not have,” says the letter.
Congress also expects “the incentive auction to generate sufficient revenues to compensate television broadcasters that wish to voluntarily relinquish spectrum, to pay for the possible relocation of television stations that remain on air,” the letter says.
Revenue produced by the auction is also expected to fund several projects, including the costs of the auction, as well as “contribute up to $7 billion toward the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network, and to reduce this nation’s unacceptable budget deficit,” according to the letter. “The DOJ submission appears oblivious to these multiple goals,” it says.
Click here to read the committee leadership’s letter to the FCC.