FCC's Jessica Rosenworcel: No Worries About Authority Sunset, 2.5 GHz Auction

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
(Image credit: JohnStaleyPhoto.com)

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday (August 5) that she is not worried about the impact on the ongoing 2.5 GHz auction if Congress fails to extend the FCC's auction authority by the end of September, when it expires.

There is bipartisan support in Congress to extend that authority, but the bill has not made it out of Congress yet and legislators are on their August break, after which they will be primarily focused on getting themselves re-elected, though there is certainly time to extend the authority before the Sept. 30 deadline.

The House has already voted to extend the FCC's spectrum auction authority. The legislation, H.R. 7624, the “Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022,” now must pass the Senate and be signed by the President or the FCC's spectrum auction authority will expire.

At her post-public meeting press conference, Rosenworcel was asked what impact the sunset of FCC auction authority might have on an ongoing auction, given that some have suggested it could cause problems.

Rosenworcel did not sound worried. "I am not concerned at all."

"I am confident the auction can proceed under statute. The only limitation is on the ultimate issuance of the license," which she said could take some time given that the auctions can and do go on for weeks or even months and then the FCC has to review the winning bidders. "That activity typically takes several months."

But she did urge Congress to extend the authority for a long period of time, and to use the proceeds from future auctions under re-authorized FCC authority towards an upgrade to next gen 911, something she has long pushed for. "Using the auction of public airwaves to support public safety makes a lot of sense," she said.

Legislation reauthorizing the FCC would do just that, as well as provide more money for the FCC's rip-and-replace program targeting unsecure network equipment from suppliers considered a risk to national security.

After round 10 of the 2.5 GHz auction, the bidders have ponied up $146,551,500 for almost 8,000 flexible use midband spectrum licenses (165 licenses currently have no bidders). ■

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.