House E&C Republicans Pan FCC Auction Item

A pair of Republican legislators who helped come up with the broadcast incentive auction legislation were among those critical of the FCC's auction procedures framework, which was approved Thursday without the support of the two Republicans on the commission.

They called it a result that short-changed everyone, including taxpayers, and would be hard to characterize as in the public interest.

The National Association of Broadcasters and AT&T both took aim at the decision.

House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton ( R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said they were troubled by what they called the FCC's decision to "elevate its political desires above the engineering and economic expertise of the industries expected to contribute spectrum and capital to this auction."

Among the FCC's decisions were to repack TV stations into wireless spectrum and spectrum being set aside for unlicensed devices, and to reserve some of the best spectrum—the least subject to interference from repacked TV stations—into a reserve that the largest carriers—AT&T and Verizon—may not get to bid on at all.

"Three years ago, Congress put its faith in the FCC to tackle a monumental task: an incentive auction that benefits broadcasters, wireless broadband, and consumers. It appears that faith was misplaced," the pair said in a statement following the vote.

"It is beyond belief that the FCC would go down the path of accepting inferior licenses for broadcasters and wireless providers when it doesn’t have to. Once the FCC has reached a level of band pollution that it considers acceptable, their system simply stops trying to make it better," they said.

They argued that devalued licenses, marooned broadcasters and displaced unlicensed and wireless mic users appeared to be "acceptable collateral damage" in the FCC majority's view.

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.