House Republicans Slam Unlicensed 'Giveaway'

House Republicans aren't happy with the FCC's proposal to
"give away" spectrum for unlicensed use a part of the incentive auctions,
saying it risks "short-changing First Responders, squandering much of the
legislation's potential, and violating the act." They also argue that
limiting who can bid at the auction could violate the law.

That is according to a staff memo for the Dec. 12 hearing on
those auctions in the House Communication Subcommittee. The hearing is
scheduled to feature all five of the commissioners.

The FCC plans to free up spectrum for unlicensed use as part
of the auction process, including allowing unlicensed use in the guard bands
between wireless and broadcast service and on spectrum that is not cleared on a
nationwide basis, they say. "Giving away large swaths of spectrum for
unlicensed use could deprive public safety officials and taxpayers of billions
of dollars," the memo argues.

The Republicans are also not happy with the FCC's proposal
seeking comment on spectrum aggregation and whether it should restrict the
amount of spectrum entities could bid for at auction. The Republicans see that
as a way to limit the participation of larger carriers. "Excluding parties
from the auction, as the FCC's aggregation NPRM contemplates, would likely
hinder the broadband objectives of the act as well as reduce auction

In addition, they argue, excluding any bidders would violate
the Communications Act's prohibition on "prevent[ing] a person from
participating in a system of competitive bidding." They argue that
effectively limiting bidding by changing what triggers excessive concentration
of wireless spectrum holdings in individual markets runs afoul of that
provision. "Picking winners and losers with such 'prior restraints' is
antithetical to open, competitive auctions," they conclude.

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.