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House Leaders Urge Wheeler to Delay Auction Vote

The FCC "can — and should — postpone the vote on the [spectrum incentive] auction procedures" because the Commission handed out "an incomplete document at the 11th hour that lacks the underlying data" to enable appropriate rulemaking.

That was the message in a three-page letterfrom Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of its Communications and Technology Subcommittee, to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. The letter was dispatched late Tuesday, barely 40 hours before the FCC is scheduled to vote on the auction rules.

The Congressmen cited the FCC's release late Friday of sample simulations for potential auction outcomes in connection with the "duplex gap."

"When the commission acts to withhold data until the eleventh hour, it is going out of its way to keep the public and relevant stakeholders — including the commissioners — out of the process," said the Congressmen in a statementaccompanying their letter.

Upton and Walden chastised Wheeler for tinkering with "the commission's standard procedure for open agenda meetings." They did not suggest a new timetable for the spectrum auction rules, merely asking the FCC to delay its vote to "allow for enough time for all parties to conduct a sufficient analysis and ensure an informed final vote." The Congressmen stressed that their committee "has repeatedly emphasized the importance of a fair and open process," and singled out the auction as a "unique opportunity to create more efficient use of valuable spectrum licenses for the broadband industry."  

“Here we go again. Like a broken record, we have heard the FCC leadership pledge repeatedly to improve process while continuing to find new ways to keep the public in the dark," Upton and Walden said in their statement. "Had the commission heeded the advice of commenters and released these data weeks ago, we would be lauding the commission today for its commitment to debate and a complete record."

The FCC's limited "simulation" figures, which came out Friday evening, drew the immediate ire of the National Association of Broadcasters, which submitted two ex parte filings on Monday and Tuesday. NAB charged that the six simulations for clearing spectrum targets were inadequate compared to the hundreds of simulations the agency has run in the past.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Commission had not issued a public response to the Congressmen's request. The auction is the first item on Thursday's agenda, starting at 10:30 am ET.