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CTIA's Largent: Government May Need to Hold Two or Three Auctions

CTIA's President and CEO Steve Largent says that he is not sure one incentive spectrum auction will be enough. While Largent and other CTIA execs say their core goal is to get more spectrum through incentive auction legislation -- suggesting a bill with only one auction, or allocating rather than auctioning the D-block, would not be a deal-breaker, Largent said there might need to be two or three spectrum auctions spread over a decade.

Broadcasters have argued there should only be one auction, pointing out they have already gone through one DTV transition, and even one auction will be tantamount to a second one.

Largent talked spectrum in a briefing with reporters at CTIA's Washington headquarters. CTIA has been pushing the FCC and Congress to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters to avoid what they say is a looming spectrum crunch as mobile broadband use explodes and the government revs up for a world of online education and diagnosis and energy monitoring and government services and public engagement and a laundry list of other applications.

"At this point, the one, two and three highest priorities for CTIA are getting more spectrum," said Largent, who added CTIA was focused "like a laser" on the issue. He pointed out that his industry is prepared to spend billions to buy broadcaster, and other, spectrum at auction, create jobs by building out that spectrum, and generate billions for the economy at a time when it could use the help.

Largent said they were hoping Congress would pass a standalone incentive auction bill, but that lacking that, the version appended to the President's jobs bill would also work. An issue that could stand in the way of passage on an incentive auction bill is whether to allocate or auction the D-block of spectrum, 10 MHz that will go to creating an interoperable broadband emergency communications network.

CTIA VP for regulatory affairs Chris Guttman-McCabe said the association is not taking sides since it has members on both sides of that debate and said he hopes that does not prove an impediment.

Largent said he was confident the incentive auctions would be authorized by the end of the year, and if all went well, spectrum could be freed up in a couple of years.

One thing CTIA definitely does not want to see in the final bill is the proposal to charge spectrum fees. He said all that will do is lower the price of the spectrum at auction since his members "aren't stupid" and would not pay as much if they had to pay spectrum fees on the back end.