FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has indicated that the
commission will not release its Allotment Optimization Model (AOM) -- how it
will reconfigure broadcast spectrum after an incentive auction -- until after
it gets that auction authority from Congress, a signal that did not sit well
with at least one congressman and a whole national association worth of
The chairman's timeline came in response to Rep. John
Dingell (D-Mich.), who had pointed out that the FCC had not yet detailed its
spectrum plans and asked the chairman to rectify that in a June letter to the Commission.
Dingell has been a longtime supporter of broadcasters and a critic of a
spectrum reallocation plan he fears could leave few if any broadcast stations
"At this point, the AOM remains very much a work in
progress," said Genachowski in his letter to Dingell, "and I am deeply
concerned that disclosure of pre-decisional information would potentially
damage the Commission's deliberative processes, as well as result in needless
public confusion about the status of the Commission's work on the voluntary
incentive auction concept." But he suggested he would be willing to
provide more info once Congress has passed legislation authorizing the FCC to
compensate broadcasters for giving up spectrum.
"Should Congress grant the Commission the ability to
conduct voluntary incentive auctions," said Genachowski, "I commit to
you that we will put the then-current (and further refined) version of the AOM
out for public comment before setting the rules for the auction. The result
will be a full, fair and open process that will allow for a complete review of
the methodology, data and assumptions the Commission will ultimately use to
implement that authority."
That was not the answer Dingell was looking for. He
called "deeply troubling" what he said was an unresponsive answer,
including the chairman's "insistence" that the Commission get the
authority before Congress got the plan details. He said the chairman was
"concealing" the nature of future agency actions and that he would
have to oppose any legislation that did not explicitly protect broadcasters. He
did not spell out those protections in the letter, but they would likely
include replicating the interference protections and coverage areas of stations
that elect not to give up their spectrum.
The National Association of Broadcasters, which has made
those protections a centerpiece of its lobbying on the issue, took the
opportunity to associate itself with Dingell's remarks and push for info.
"It is deeply disappointing that a member of
Congress as distinguished and long-serving as John Dingell would not receive an
answer from the FCC to a question so vital to his constituency," said NAB
President Gordon Smith in a statement. Rep. Dingell's concern clearly arises
from the fact that Detroit citizens could lose access to all of their local TV
stations because of U.S. treaty obligations with Canada," he said.
"If the FCC has evidence proving that NAB's analysis is incorrect, it
should make it available, and quickly."
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