Pallone Introduces Auction Rules Bill

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has drafted legislation, The Small Business Access to Legislation bill, that would instruct the FCC to update its designated entity (DE) rules that would give small businesses better access to spectrum up for auction.

Pallone wants the FCC to make those changes before the broadcast incentive auction, whose final rules will need to come out in the fall to hit the first-quarter 2016 auction target.

“Small businesses are vital to our economy. New Jersey alone is home to over 800,000 small businesses, which are responsible for half of the jobs in the state.  Without smart policies, these small businesses simply cannot survive in capital-intensive industries such as telecommunications,” said Pallone. “It’s time for the FCC to update its rules to give small businesses a fair shot at getting access to the nation’s airwaves.”

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this week said that the commission would update those DE rules, but the bill would put the FCC on a 90-day clock to do so.

Responding to questions about Dish's 85% stake in two companies applying for $3.3 billion in DE bidding credits in the recently-completed AWS-3 auction, Wheeler told a Senate oversight hearing panel this week that he did not want slick lawyers gaming the system and that the commission would update the rules.

In October, the FCC voted unanimously on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which is where Wheeler signaled the DE changes can be made (before the final order is voted).

That NPRM generally allows more smaller entities to bid in the incentive auction—and other future auctions—part of the ongoing effort to spread the beachfront spectrum around beyond the Big Four. But it also proposes not making leases with big carriers a de facto bar on DE bidding credits, which is the reasoning behind the FCC's granting of a waiver to Grain Management for DE status.

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.