FCC's Wheeler: Successful Spectrum Auction Is Assured

The successful completion of the final stage rule was a going-away present of sorts for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who exits Jan. 20.

Wheeler took a bow for the entire FCC team, past and present, in a statement following the announcement that the auction would close after the current stage.

“The world’s first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise. Reaching the Final Stage Rule means the benefits of the auction are indisputable. We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis," Wheeler said. "On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum – the test bed for wireless innovation – will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction. 

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“There is still a long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market. This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well," he said.

The fact that the FCC had to reduce its spectrum clearing target from 126 MHz to 84 Mhz will mean less money for broadcasters and less spectrum for wireless operators, but it will make that repack easier given that there is much more room to repack TV stations in, which means no TV stations will be repacked into the duplex gap (between wireless uplink or downlink spectrum, or in the wireless band at all).

“Now that we are assured of a successful auction, however, it is appropriate to acknowledge and thank some of those who helped us get here; a list that begins with our staff," said Wheeler. "For more than four years, Gary Epstein, Chair of the Incentive Auction Task Force, has led a team of professionals more than 100 strong to assure that our actions were carefully coordinated and considered the public and stakeholder interests from all angles. The Task Force has worked tirelessly on this auction since 2012 and they have my deepest thanks.

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“Congress made the incentive auction possible – both by passing the Spectrum Act in 2012 and through its continued guidance and oversight – thanks to the leadership of Representatives Upton, Waxman, Walden, Eshoo, and Pallone, and Senators Rockefeller, Thune, and Nelson.

"Committee staff, together with the staff of our federal agency partners, including NTIA and OMB, collaborated to draft a momentous piece of legislation designed to advance the goals of making more spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use, funding an interoperable public safety network, and reducing the federal deficit.

“My predecessors as Chair, Julius Genachowski and Mignon Clyburn, set the process in motion for this auction as well as for the 2014 AWS-3 auction, together with fellow Commissioners Robert McDowell, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly. Congratulations to all on a job well done," he concluded.

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.