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Genachowski: Auction Bill Could Limit Benefits of Spectrum Recovery

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he was pleased that Congress had recognized the importance of freeing up spectrum, but warned that the way the bill is worded could "limit the FCC's ability to maximize the amount and benefits of recovered spectrum."

He was not explicit, but the reference was to language in the bill that limits how the FCC can structure the spectrum auction by preventing the FCC from imposing conditions on who can bid. While the FCC has been accused of wanting to exclude major players, the chairman has countered that the point is to make sure that bidders of all sizes get a chance.

The chairman was responding to the news that spectrum incentive auction legislation had made it into the compromise payroll tax break extension package expected to get a vote Friday (Feb. 17).

"Congress is poised to take an important step in making the U.S. the first country in the world to adopt the incentive auctions concept, an innovative, market-based approach to unleash more spectrum for mobile broadband," he said.

"Today's agreement concerning spectrum policy is a potential watershed moment for the technology industry," said TechAmerica president Dan Varroney. "Spectrum is the lifeblood for technological innovation and by authorizing incentive auctions and ensuring that sufficient unlicensed spectrum is available this legislation will spur investment and job creation. TechAmerica members include computer companies Dell, IBM, and Apple.

"Congress deserves applause for including language in the payroll-tax bill that prevents the Federal Communications Commission from picking winners and losers by precluding otherwise qualified bidders from taking part in incentive spectrum auctions," said the Internet Innovation Alliance. "Discriminating against potential bidding companies is unfair and anti-competitive and would stifle economic growth, job creation, and broadband deployment."

"The agreement Congress has reached on legislation that delivers a 21st century spectrum policy is a win for all Americans," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee. The chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), was the principal author of the Republican House version of auction legislation that was the foundation of the compromise that emerged. "Incentive auctions will ensure that we have the world's leading wireless infrastructure, and the future for unlicensed innovation in the TV band is bright," she said.

Verizon was pleased with the result. "By bringing new wireless spectrum to market via incentive auctions, and laying the groundwork for our nation's interoperable wireless public-safety network, American consumers and citizens will be well-served," the company said.

"Kudos to committee leadership in both House and Senate, and to policymakers on both sides of the aisle, for uniting around ground-breaking spectrum reform. Voluntary incentive auctions are a brand new and much needed tool for re-purposing spectrum to maximize its utility for advanced technology uses," said Mary Brown, director of Cisco Government Affairs. "Congressional action comes not a minute too soon. US mobile traffic grew 172% in 2011 and growth is increasing exponentially as consumers adopt ever more powerful devices."

"At a time when so many Americans are concerned about the future of their jobs, government revenue and spending plans, and whether the country has lost its edge on innovation, Congress has made a great decision that will result in significant investment in mobility and will have a meaningful impact on the creation of jobs with private investment," said Rhod Shaw, executive director of the High Tech Spectrum Coalition.