WASHINGTON—House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Ranking Member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., tells Government Video she is “not highly confident” the Federal Communications Commission will meet the September 2014 deadline to conduct auctions of broadcast spectrum held by the U.S. government.
Nonetheless, while Eshoo said, “I’m not highly confident,” she qualified that language by adding “but I’m fairly confident” that the FCC will hold those auctions by the deadline, and she expressed frustration with the situation and a lack of progress and answers from the agencies involved.
She commented following a subcommittee hearing on “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era” held June 27. At that hearing, Eshoo and Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., were asked by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Cailf., to oversee meetings on the reallocation of government-held spectrum conducted by the FCC, the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Agency.
Eshoo added that now she and Walden are going to oversee the monthly meetings held by those agencies, she expects her confidence that the auctions will occur by the deadline will increase.
“The work that the chairman and the ranking member of the full committee asked Greg Walden and I to take on will make sure that they [the meetings] are coordinated, to make sure there aren’t excuses, to make sure there isn’t finger pointing, (and) that will hasten the outcome that we’re looking for,” Eshoo said. In addition, monitoring the progress of the agencies tasked with producing the broadcast-spectrum auction “will up the confidence of the committee that the auctions can, and will take place at the appropriate time,” she said.
Nearly 60 percent of the domestic-broadcast spectrum within the 1755-1850 MHz band is held by federal agencies, and the FCC has been directed to provide incentives to those agencies with unused spectrum to either relinquish or share that spectrum with wireless carriers who want those frequencies for smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices.
Some estimates on how much the government can earn from spectrum auctions reach as high as $20 billion, and some of the money can be used to fund broadcast-equipment upgrades at the agencies that participate in auctions, according to committee members.
Nonetheless, a lack of progress and answers from the agencies involved has “frustrated” Eshoo, who grilled hearing witness Teri Takai, the DoD’s chief information officer, on those issues. “We [committee members] really want to see some movement and action in the right places,” Eshoo said to Takai before asking if the DoD has a cost estimate on the reallocation of 25-hertz-of-spectrum in the 1755 and 1780 MHz band.
“We have not done a cost estimate for only the 1755 to 1780 band in terms of the next steps on it,” said Takai, who added the DoD is waiting to hear from the FCC on if the auction will be “a two-stage auction.”
Eshoo then asked if the agencies “sit down and talk to each other?” And if the DoD has a commitment to reallocate spectrum and a cost estimate is needed, why wouldn’t the agencies “sit down and talk about it?” she said.
“I didn’t mean to give the impression we don’t sit and talk about it, we talk about it a lot,” Takai said.
However, Eshoo said when federal agencies meet, there needs to be an outcome. “You have meetings so we get something out of it and get something done,” she said.
Click here to view the hearing.