Dingell Warns FCC Against Limiting Spectrum Auction Bidders

Add Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), "dean" of the Congress to the list of those advising the FCC not to limit the bidders for broadcast spectrum.

In a speech at a Third Way spectrum policy event in Washington Dec. 11, Dingell said that "the plain and simple fact of the matter is that more spectrum is needed to meet exploding consumer demand."

In order to increase spectrum for mobile broadband, pay down debt, provide for the FirstNet interoperable first responder network, and have enough money to incentivize broadcasters to put up spectrum for auction and pay to relocate those that don't, the FCC needs all the bidders it can get, he suggested.

"There's a simple answer here: avoid restricting the number of potential bidders. Limiting the number of carriers allowed to bid on broadcaster airwaves will decrease auction revenues to the detriment of revenues and total new spectrum rolled out for wireless broadband."

The FCC is being urged by some wireless carriers to cap the additional low-band spectrum AT&T and Verizon can bid for given that they now have 80% of that beachfront property.

Broadcasters looking to potentially sell spectrum have been urging the FCC not to limit the financial take, though some Democrats in Congress have suggested that the FCC should look beyond the financial goals, and the Justice Department has backed local market, low-band limits.

Dingell also signaled he would have some of his signature "yes" or "no" answer questions on spectrum teed up for FCC Chair Tom Wheeler in Thursday's FCC oversight hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee Communications Subcommittee--of which Dingell is a member (and former chair of the full committee).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.